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Play features blackface version of Obama – PSH ensues.


FARGO, North Dakota (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 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.

NDSU President Joseph Chapman was not immediately available for comment, and 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.

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.

Um.  It’s called “parody”.  Get over it.

Also, this was fun:  “The student body is 92 percent white, while 1.5 percent identify themselves as black or African-American”.  While I’m glad that they’re like, “hey, some of them call themselves black” instead of doing that blanket “African-American” bullshit (and it IS bullshit – you know it as well as I do), I find it funny that some students ARE white, while others CAN IDENTIFY THEMSELVES as black.  So if I call myself black on a form, that’s identifying myself as much, but doesn’t necessarily mean that I am.  I guess the identity thing stems from the “if you have one drop of [ethnicity] blood, you’re [ethnicity]” attitude.  By that reasoning, I should be able to get a full scholarship as an Algonquin American Indian.

“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?”

Nowhere, dude.  You’re a state university, and as such, your policies are dictated by the state government, the constitution of which cannot directly contradict that of the federal government (meaning THE Constitution of the United States of America).  As such, if you’re questioning the “free speech” aspect of this skit, then you’ve already lost your argument.  You’re not a private university – you can’t make up rules banning words and phrases just because someone’s feelings might get hurt, or because it’s some sort of religious thing.  It doesn’t work that way.

I’m also particularly drawn to this story because, in 2006, I dressed up as an iPod silhouette for Hallowe’en, along with Tex.  We wore black shirts and pants, black gloves, I put black color in my hair, and the final touch:  black face paint.  Then we put our iPods on, and danced around the parties we went to that night.  It was a HUGE hit – everyone thought it was imaginative and fun.  There was mention of people taking it the wrong way, but only by people who didn’t know Tex or me.

I got back to my dorm that night, walking through the halls that were empty except for my RA and her boyfriend – both of whom are black.  They both smiled and waved at me, and I smiled and waved back.  I was still wearing my iPod, and my attitude was nowhere near indicative of any sort of negative feelings toward either of them (I was still at the point where I was trying to be nice to my RA, even though she’s a bitch).

A month later, I checked my school voice mails to find that I’d received a message the day after that night from Student Life.  I called, and apparently the woman who runs the office was sitting on that message just waiting for me to call back – she picked up on who I was and why she’d called me right away.  She’s black, too – this is important – and anyone on campus who isn’t directly in her favor (i.e. black, as well) HATES her, and none of us can figure out how she got the title “Doctor”.  She’s a walking parody, a woman who’s goal in life is to make sure that she forces everyone to comply with whatever “racial equality standards” she deems necessary at that time…though most of those standards don’t extend past her office doors, thank goodness.  The bad part is when you have to actually go IN to her office for some reason.  And god forbid that reason is anything pertaining to another student who happens to be black.  I swear, this woman is stuck in the 1960s.

Anyway, the message I got from her was that a student reported me “wandering around campus in blackface”, and that I “scared” them.  Since the only person I’d seen closely enough to have been able to identify me, other than Tex, was my RA, I immediately blurted, “It was C*****, wasn’t it.  I wasn’t ‘wandering the campus’, I was walking to my dorm room to clean up after having gone to Hallowe’en parties.  And it wasn’t ‘blackface’ in the way  you’re trying to insinuate – I was an iPod silhouette.”

“A what?”

“You know those iPod commercials?  Where the shadow’s dancing around and all you can see is the iPod?  My boyfriend and I are geeks.  We dressed up as those shadows.”

“Umm hmmm.”  She obviously wanted to accuse me of lying.  Well, fuck it.  Let her.

The incident was let go, but not after a lot of unnecessary drama that I don’t feel equal to writing about at this time.

The point is, the person in that story wasn’t putting on blackface to make fun of the black race as stupid.  They were putting on blackface because their costume dictated that they not be “lily-white”.  It’s theatre.  Drama.  Parody.  It might have been in poor taste, but there’s no need to have a shit fit over it.  Not every instance of a white person talking, dressing like, or writing about a black person is racism.  Sometimes it just IS what it looks like.

This “white guilt” is getting old.

3 comments to Play features blackface version of Obama – PSH ensues.

  • 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.

  • Squeaky Wheel


    Thanks for dropping by to comment.
    While I agree that in overt acts of racism, apologies are not sufficient, I do not agree that this was one of those overt acts. I think they were commenting more on Obama’s stances and how they disagreed with them than they were Obama’s race. The makeup and wig were to drive home the point of who they were talking about, just as someone imitating former President Clinton would put white powder in their hair, squint, and talk in a mushy Southern accent.
    The rest of my comment could take up a significant portion of another post, but I’m not entirely sure if you would be re-visiting to read, anyway, given that you seem to have taken my tone to mean that I myself am racist, so I’ll stop here. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this further.

  • I agree, Squeak. Lots of folks are extremely quick to react and take a mile where an inch, no, a millimeter-is given. I hate that anyone, of any race, has to be huffy at something that truly is not racial. Like you said, you wouldn’t see me getting pissed if someone painted their face white and did a sketch. Hell, look at Dave Chappell!!!!! He apes whites all the time and it’s freaking HILARIOUS! Satire and drama are just that….not everything is racism.