Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blackface is Scary at OSU

The Oregonian has a breaking headline that reads: "OSU Students Upset by Perceived Racist Symbols".

I read the headline and thought it strange. The word "perceived" that is, and its mediating presence in the headline.

So here are the two "perceived" pictures that led some of Oregon State University's (OSU) 297 Black students to become incensed. The pictures are sourced from Eric Stoller's blog. Stoller is on the faculty at OSU.

The picture below appeared in OSU's student newspaper, The Daily Barometer, and it covers a call from a junior student who "encouraged" football fans to paint their faces and hands black as a show of support for the school's football team.

The call led about 50 students and staff to protest before a game because the Oregonian article says:"a previous football game included some students wearing black face paint and Afro wigs."

The article also says that the "protestors were largely ignored by the thousands of football fans headed to the game."

This is the other "percieved" racial insult:

And this is how the Oregonian explained it:"Earlier this week, some students were also angered by a noose hanging on the front lawn of a fraternity house. While it was later discovered that the noose was left over from a Halloween fundraiser at the fraternity, students were still bothered by what they considered a symbol of lynching."

A few weeks ago a student in my "Racism" class asked me a well intentioned question. She wanted to know why I sometimes refuse to inform whites about their racist behaviour.

I answered her question with honest intent and replied that "because at times I am just overcome by what I refer to as 'white fatigue'. This means that I am very often tired of schooling whites about their ignorance on matters of race and racism. I refuse to be in-service to whiteness 24/7 and 365 days a year."

You can read the response a Native student wrote about this whole fiasco here. Also see the comments at Stoller's blog if you need to get a sense of why 'white fatigue' should be covered by your health plan (if you have one of course).

Stoller also points out that Covallis, where OSU is located in Oregon, "is ranked as one of America’s Top 25 family friendly enclaves, ... and "the 8th best place in the nation to live."

What ya waiting for Eugene? A quality life awaits in the land of unintended racism and white oblivion. Kinda like Portland though huh?

Now why do I feel fatigued again?


Dione said...

From what I can tell, OSU didn’t mean to be racist in their Black Face Football crap. The overall message is one of unthinking- unintelligent ignorance. In today’s world- not that it was ok yesterday- but today people especially in educational institutions need to think about these things before they go all out for their football crap and not think of the consequences. These people, OSU and U of O they are all football nuts down there. I can’t even tell you to the extreme these people go with their face paints and gear that I saw when I sold men’s athletic wear. I’m sure no one even bothered to think of what could have been implied by a black face message. The people who come up with that stuff are a bunch of jocks in the athletic department. They are ignorant.

In terms of white fatigue, it is not your responsibility to educate every idiot out there on racism, just the people in your class. In the class room you provide lots of valuable real insights to the history of racism, and the politics surrounding many of the issues, and contemporary issues. It’s a real thinking outside the box, critical thinking much more across the board realization. The people you mentor, (not only white people either I might add) gain a lot from your political science back ground, not just what you can tell someone who is white, about being not white.
Again, white fatigue- not your or anyone else’s responsibility day to day to educate everyone. What is everyone’s responsibility is to try and be a good citizen to all people. Be a human, be kind and considerate- if you can (some people really are not capable, however they are not excused), and let OSU have a lower enrolment next year maybe…..


Ridwan said...

Dione I have to disagree with you on your opening points.

It is not necessary for anyone, group, or institution, to be aware or conscious of racism for it to persist.

Racism is a system and works irrespective of individual/group intent.

What happened at OSU was overtly racist. That any white people are ignorant of racism is nothing more than an excuse.

Racism employs the standard of making its excesses
"commonsense" ... and the ugliness of blackface was used here in its historical capacity to express a scare tactic.

That is the undercurrent of blackface and its racism.

That athletes and almost 20k other students did not see this does not mean they were just mistakingly intentioned.

Nontheless, thanks for your comment.


Eric Stoller said...

Nice post. Wanted to clarify one thing...I'm actually a full time, non-teaching faculty member at OSU. I graduated in 06 from the CSSA program. Cheers.

Dione said...

There are no excuses for Racism. Please don't get me wronge, while your points are well taken.
These are all money making instituations, as you very well know. They are not looking out for the best interest of their students- but they should be. In addition, they should be looking out for their own image. If their message is overtly racist, and it is, then they could for sure have lower enrolment next year- and that does hurt them. The student body spoke up down there from what I undertand. What I also understand from what happend at PSU is that the students are not always listened to, so,, what they do listen to is their pocketbook. Maybe get the word out to the alumni who is so proud of their fooball crap, and maybe not support their funding for awhile.


Ridwan said...

Eric thanks for looking in here. And thanks for letting me know your correct status at OSU.

I appreciate you writing and covering this issue. You raise very important points.

Best wishes.


Dione said...

"The call led about 50 students and staff to protest before a game because the Oregonian article says:"a previous football game included some students wearing black face paint and Afro wigs."

I really have to say that this part of whats going on goes beyond overt racism. I can't believe that anyone thought they would get away with that. I know that they are all stupid, but still... again thats my point. I would really draw the line with the Afro wigs and ect, it makes it so that there is no confusion about racial intentions. I have re read this article.

Nicole said...

So I clicked on the link to the Oregonian Website which discussed the story, and someone made a comment saying this:

"Being a Student at OSU I think this is WAY blown out of proportion. I saw the protesters at the game, I gave them no attention either. Maybe a few looks of "what in the world are you doing?!" I do realize there is still racism present in America but umm OSU colors are BLACK and ORANGE! To wear all black is INTIMIDATING, if a whole crowd is wearing ONE color..its INTIMIDATING! The Ducks always wear all yellow, to because our color is black we can't wear it, or promote it for everyone to wear? RIDICULOUS! I think these students who are bothered by this really need to occupy themselves with better matters, maybe an extra curricular activity haha.

Hmm on and "white" racist of this site. Oh wait, nevermind to say white isn't racist. Nothing is racist againist whites, just blacks and other minority groups.

Oh, and I did wear black to this game...YAY black!"

Wow this is just really sad. Like these sort of comments don't anger me anymore they just make me feel disappointed and sad at the ignorance that people (and whiteness) have today.

My dad always said "I can deal with the stupid people out there because you can teach them, but I can't deal with the ignorant ones."

This is a case of ignorance, and I am just so utterly disgusted.

I feel you on the white fatigue, Ridwan. Even though I'm just a baby I know what your talking about... There is so much I could say on this story, but I just don't have the energy right now to do it. And that is something that is sad....


Ridwan said...

I hear you Nicole. And racism is also patronizing. It will tell its victims what they can and cannot be offended by.

I wonder if the white person who made that comment knows how f*cking ignorant they sound?

'Just occupy yourselves with other extra-curricular' things ...

I have a few things in mind but if I said what it would onky serve to prove how racist 'all' Black people are toward whites.

Be well little sista.