Two members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the University of Florida wore blackface to a party last week, and when the image was posted to Instagram, it quickly caused controversy on campus.
The photo, taken at an off-campus party on Oct. 24, shows two men wearing thick gold chains, baseball caps and "pants that hang so low they show their boxer shorts," according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The Independent Florida Alligator reports the photo was posted on the NAACP-UF chapter's Facebook page with the caption "the fact that this is seen as acceptable is where the problem lies.”
An intense debate followed, with more than 130 comments on the Facebook post. Opinions varied about whether the costumes were acceptable and whehter the UF-NAACP should even keep the image up. People also shared other photos found on the Internet of UF students dressed in blackface at previous events.
Stevenson Chery, a senior at UF and former president of the school's Haitian student organization, told the Sentinel, "We are outraged about it. Students should know that this is wrong."
Beta Theta Pi president Ethan McMahon said the theme of the party where the blackface photo was taken was "rock stars and rappers." He acknowledged that two attendees wore blackface and said he was disappointed.
"As an organization, we pride ourselves on the considerable diversity of our membership and are disappointed in the poor judgement and actions of two of our members," McMahon told the Alligator. "While their actions were not intended with any malice or ill will to any members of our community, clearly they were offensive, and we accept full responsibility accordingly."
On Sunday, a new post on the UF-NAACP page addressed calls to take the blackface photo down:
Today someone told me that it’s time for blacks to forget our past, it’s time to move on and move forward, the image was harmless, hey who really knows what blackface is? Let us not forget that it’s been less than fifty years since blacks were allowed to attend this university.
(The first African-American student was admitted to UF in 1958.)
The campus National Pan-Hellenic Council said it would review the incident, and the student government plans to discuss the incident in a public meeting Tuesday. Some students are planning to attend dressed in black hoodies "as a display of solidarity" with African-American students.