Saturday, March 29, 2008

21st-Century Blackface: A Concert of Comedy and Racism

Nothing original here, in the story, or from me--just another bothersome tale of cultural metastasis in the early 21st-century.
Bawdy Obama Skit Riles N.D. Campus
Mar 28, 6:14 PM (ET)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota State University is investigating complaints about a campus skit in which a white student in blackface portrayed Barack Obama receiving a lap dance.

The same skit, part of a charity fundraiser held at a campus theater, also featured a depiction of cowboys having sex with each other, witnesses told The Forum newspaper, which first reported the backlash Friday.

"We're trying to find out the right approaches for accountability, but at the same time try to heal wounds that have occurred and allow the campus to move ahead," Janna Stoskopf, NDSU's dean of students, told The Associated Press on Friday.

The March 18 skit involving the NDSU Saddle and Sirloin Club was performed at the Mr. NDSU Pageant, which is sponsored by the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and raises money for diabetes research.

People who attended it said a pageant contestant from Saddle and Sirloin dressed as a woman from the Internet video "I Got a Crush on Obama" and performed a strip tease for another student, who was wearing dark makeup and an afro wig.

In the background, two male students dressed as cowboys simulated anal sex while holding an Obama sign that one student ripped at the conclusion of the 30-second performance, the Forum reported.

"That seems to be consistent with what's been described to me," Stoskopf said.

The Obama campaign had no comment Friday. Obama is to speak at North Dakota Democrats' state convention in Grand Forks next week.

Josh Reimnitz, who is the NDSU student body president and saw the skit, called it "totally tasteless" and said he and other audience members were shocked.

"Honestly, I still don't know what the intention of the skit was," he said. "It was very silent, and there were some boos. People were looking at each other, not knowing how to act."

The skit does not reflect attitudes on campus, Reimnitz said.

"We're still going to be proactive in student government, as far as diversity education and training," he said. "If there are pockets out there that we don't know about, we want to make sure this doesn't happen again."

NDSU President Joseph Chapman was not immediately available for comment. Messages left by the AP for Russell Danielson, adviser of the Saddle and Sirloin Club, and Malika Carter, an NDSU assistant director of multicultural student services were not immediately returned.

"It doesn't matter if you're rural. It doesn't matter if you're from Fargo or Beulah, N.D.," said Joy Rice, a black Fargo resident and a member of the city's human relations commission. "You still need to respect people of color, in all aspects of life. This is a form of racism, and it's really taking a step back."

The skit follows a complaint filed against a sorority at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where guests wore Indian costumes and red paint on their faces and bodies. "This falls into the same category," Rice said of the NDSU skit. "It's just as bad."

Stoskopf said she expected the investigation could take until May 9, the end of the school year. "One of the issues here is how do we balance what our policies and expectations about behavior are with the issue of freedom of speech," Stoskopf said. "Where does all of that get us?"

NDSU has 10,403 undergraduates. The student body is 92 percent white, while 1.5 percent identify themselves as black or African-American.

Other views on the event are breaking.

Meanwhile, one can rest assured that the issue of race will continue to pulse in a robust fashion.

Three correctives? Here, here, and here. NPR is on it as well; and, lastly, an American Apparel controversy.


Shazam! Billy Bates weighs in as well...


  1. One of the other bloggers on Highbrid Nation, Juan Perez, wrote about those idiots in North Dakota putting on blackface and honestly I"m not too surprised. Unfortunately as a black man I'm well aware that these type of things happen when there are no black people to witness them. Yet somehow mainstream tries to pretend racism is fading away. It's not fading away, it's just hiding. The days of the KKK are gone but have been replaced with a more passive version where people can do outlandish things like the frat in ND and then they can just turn around and say "sorry we didn't mean to be offensive" and everyone lets it go. This is what Obama is dealing with right now, a nation with tons of racists who don't even know they are.

  2. Thanks for the headsup and the link, Mike! Abrazos, Bill.