At Colorado State University, White Students Not Punished for Blackface Selfie Celebrating Black Panther

One of the students in the photo wearing cosmetic facemasks identified herself as Leana Kaplan and apologized for blackface photo celebrating ‘Black Panther.’
Photo: YakobchukOlena (IStock)

Stupid is as stupid does.

One of several white Colorado State University students who were pictured wearing blackface striking a pose from Marvel’s billion-dollar-plus blockbuster Black Panther said her actions were stupid but not racist.

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Yes, in 2019, some of your Caucasian brethren still think it’s fun to simulate temporary dark-skinned tones—and take photos doing so.

Who was that who said “They all want to be black until the po-po shows up?”

I’m paraphrasing but think it was comic legend Paul Mooney in 1994.

A picture posted on social media depicts four students in blackface as two of them cross their arms in front of their chests in a “Wakanda Forever” salute, a reference to Ryan Coogler’s groundbreaking superhero movie. The photo was captioned “Wakanda forevaa.”

The school will not punish the students because they were exercising their First Amendment rights, administrators said.

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The university’s president, Joyce McConnell, and two other administrators (Vice President for Student Affairs Blanche Hughes and Vice President for Diversity Mary Ontiveros) said they understood how the image caused “a great deal of pain” on a letter posted to the school’s website on Sept 10.

“We have heard from many of you—and we hear you. Moreover, we respect your voices. We know that images like this one—whether consciously racist or not—can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile,” the letter read.

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The administrators noted “personal social media accounts are not under our jurisdiction.”

Students, faculty and staff “can generally post whatever they wish to post on their personal online accounts in accordance with their First Amendment rights.”

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Oh really now?

“This recent post runs counter to our principles of community, but it does not violate any CSU rule or regulation, and the First Amendment prohibits the university from taking any punitive action against those in the photo.”

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One of the students in the photo wearing cosmetic facemasks identified herself as Leana Kaplan and apologized.

“I am guilty of insensitivity and stupidity, but these do not make me a racist nor even a denier of my racism, as so many are,” Kaplan said in a statement emailed to the New York Daily News by her father, Les Kaplan.

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“At what point does someone say: ‘Stop, we are coming across as racists?’ Unfortunately, in the moment, that point didn’t happen,” she said in the statement dated Friday

The school’s administrators wish to use the incident as a “powerful learning moment” and have asked faculty and staff to “share their professional expertise and personal wisdom” on issues regarding race and identity.

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Something is rotten in the cotton at Colorado State.

According to NBC News, the blackface image is the latest reported incident of racism or bias at the university in 2019—a year after the Academy Award-winning film came out. So not only are they horrible and “stupid,” they are late.

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But college is supposed to be a breeding ground for self-development, right?

The school has their work cut out for them though because racist incidents are common practice on their grounds.

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In April, the university posted messages on its website encouraging students who experience “discrimination or bias on campus to report that behavior.”

Before that, three students publicly raised such concerns, the school said, but didn’t provide further details.

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In March, racist graffiti was found inside a men’s bathroom on campus. In a letter to the campus, school officials called the tagging “deeply offensive” and did not “reflect the values and character” of the school.

One thing is for certain, the Fort Collins-based university gets an “A+” for their letter writing skills.

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And an “F” for cultural sensitivity.

Plans for campus events and conversations about race and identity are forthcoming, according to the letter.

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Among the school’s 33,000 students about 22 percent are “ethnic minorities,” according to the university’s 2018-19 factbook.

Forbes reported about 2.5 percent of the school’s students in 2017-18 were African American.

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About the author

Karu F. Daniels

Hailing from "the thorough borough" of Brooklyn, Mr. Daniels has written for The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, Essence, VIBE, NBC News, The Daily Beast, The New York Daily News and Word Up!