- Nov. 9, 2010: Black Face Incident (Lehigh’s Response)
- Nov. 12, 2010: Letter to the Editor: No excuse for use of blackface
- Nov. 16, 2010: Students, faculty react to blackface incident
- Nov. 16, 2010: Letter to the Editor: Who was harmed by “blackface” e-mail?
- Nov. 17, 2010: Two Lehigh men who dress in blackface for Halloween party stir reaction from the fellow students, university officials and the local NAACP
This picture was sent to me by a friend who is a student at Lehigh with this message:
“I wanted you to take a look at a picture that I just encountered last
night, after a fellow student forwarded it to me. It’s of two Lehigh
students ‘depicting’ Venus and Serena Williams at Halloween. Many of
us students are organizing around this, and hopefully something
positive will come of all of this.”
“Costumes” such as this stand as a painful reminder of the racial stereotyping featured in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled:
Blackface is not a costume. It is not a joke, it is not funny, and it is unacceptable. To anyone who believes we have entered a post-racial era, may this stand as a sufficiently disconcerting reminder that racism remains.
According to Lehigh’s own Policy on Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action/ Non-Discrimination, University Conduct System, and Harassment Policy, it seems this is a clear case of harassment and that something can and should be done about it. Take the Harassment Policy’s clause on Stereotypes, for example:
“2.1.3. Stereotyping. Statements that demean people on the basis of
age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national or ethnic origin,
race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status can also contribute
to a hostile work or educational environment. For example, it would be
gender stereotyping to ask a man or a woman why he or she is
majoring in a discipline such as English, Engineering, or Finance
because people of this gender can’t succeed in the area. Another
example of stereotyping would be to ask an older colleague why she or
he hasn’t retired. Each of these isolated questions is not harassment
by itself, but could contribute to a hostile environment.”
Blackface is most certainly racial stereotyping if nothing else. An environment that allows something such as this to go unaddressed is one in which many students are uncomfortable. While I understand these students’ efforts to respond to this event, I am left wondering, should this really be up to students to fight? Shouldn’t the college uphold its own policies and respond accordingly?
I, too, hope something good comes of all of this, and I hope most of all that it doesn’t all have to come from the students; a college community is made up of much more.
“Some are to blame, but all are responsible.” – Barack Obama
And last, but certainly not least, I go back to some very wise words about how to tell someone they sound (or, in this case, look) racist. It’s important to remember: it’s not who or what they are, but what they did. And I’d like to add, it’s not who or what Lehigh is. It’s not whether or not we trip; it’s how we rise from falling.