UW-Stout students upset over blackface Halloween costume

Students at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie are speaking out against a racist Halloween costume that won a contest at a private party over the weekend.

A photo circulating on Facebook shows a group dressed as the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team with their faces painted black. This is yet another example of why donning blackface as a Halloween costume is never okay.

“Blackface” is a racist means of perpetuating stereotypes and misappropriations under the guise of entertainment. Jerica Gillespie, a freshman at UW-Stout, says while America may be a couple centuries removed from the Vaudeville days and the era of minstrel shows, blackface is still not hard to find.

“It’s super offensive,” Gillespie says. “They could've done the outfit without shading their face black or putting on black gloves. It’s ridiculous.”

Gillespie was just one of several people who reported the photo to campus administration.
Once she learned at least one UW-Stout student was involved.

“I want there to be consequences,” Gillespie says. “It's very offensive. It's very racist.”

"Incidents of hate or bias are not welcome here,” UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer wrote in a statement Wednesday, adding "the incident furthers disappointment that the actions of these individuals would in any way be affiliated with UW-Stout."

“The history of blackface starting in colonial America as entertainment it's not something to be taken lightly in its historical context,” Michael Manning, a staff member at the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute, says. “It was something in its beginning that was derogatory and should be continued to be viewed as derogatory.”

Manning says any UW-Stout student involved should be reprimanded.

Gillespie hopes those behind the blackface bobsled at least apologize for costume and vow to end their offensive antics.

“You wouldn't want us to paint our faces white,” Gillespie says.