NORTON — News that a Wheaton College student apparently donned blackface during a Halloween party Friday night has left members of the school community stunned, afraid and, quite frankly, hurt, students of the school’s Black Student Association said Wednesday.

School officials confirmed they are investigating reports that a female soccer player dressed up as a black character from the movie “White Chicks” during a costume contest at a Halloween party in a residence hall Friday night.

A photo of the woman shows her dressed in a bald cap with a drawn-on goatee and makeup to make her skin look darker. Students say she was dressed up to portray actor Terry Crews’ role in the movie.

A screenshot of text messages sent to The Sun Chronicle also show the woman and another team member asked the team to remove photographs of the costume from social media after the party.

“Just in case any friends on snapchat gets offended cause that’s the last thing I would want to do,” the woman writes.

Another replies: “If people say anything (she) is tan and it was really bronzer people are just overreacting.”

Administrators said the student did not play in the Oct. 31 women’s soccer game, but there have been no official disciplinary findings or actions taken against the student thus far.

Meanwhile, more than 50 students gathered at Mary Lyon Hall Wednesday to say, as they wait for administrators to take action, they’re the ones left carrying the weight of the woman’s actions — even when they weren’t the ones in the wrong.

“It’s crazy how people on this campus have been saying, ‘You’re overreacting,’ or ‘You’re being over-dramatic, it’s just a costume,’” Kiana Taylor, 21, said.

“There are people in that room crying. Hurting. She should not be allowed to walk around campus right now. Why is she holding her head up high when we’re walking around like we did something wrong? As people of color we’re the ones left to deal with this.”

Wheaton President Dennis Hanno called Wednesday’s meeting to hear from students and discuss what could be done to prevent future incidents on campus.

But reporters from The Sun Chronicle were barred from entering the session, which administrators called a “private meeting,” even as a student streamed a video of the meeting on Facebook Live.

After the meeting several students said they thought administrators had taken proactive measures to try to prevent instances of cultural appropriation during the Halloween season: College-wide emails and posters plastered around campus asked students to think twice about what their costumes might portray.

“After all that, she still painted her face and went outside and thought it was funny,” Candice Appiah, 18, said. “It was an act of arrogance and ignorance. As students of color, particularly black students, it shows us we’re not safe on campus.”

Appiah said blackface was historically used to perpetuate hateful stereotypes of black individuals as “bastardized, inhuman, rapists and violent.”

Wearing it today “proves you don’t care about my feelings as a black person,” she said.

In an email to students Tuesday, Hanno called the costume offensive and inappropriate.

But many students called for the president to more strongly condemn the incident as an act of racism and take punitive action against the student. Some were skeptical that would happen.

“So many people in that room feel nothing will be done,” Taylor said. “That’s why we’re here. To hold someone accountable. I hope that this is a wake up call.”

Taylor said, in the past, she feels administrators have “tip-toed” around touchy subjects and swept things under the rug.

All of the students interviewed said racism is a problem at the college.

In 2015, hand-written fliers containing racial slurs, swastikas, threats and derogatory messages were posted on several dorm room doors.But it’s not Wheaton’s issue alone.

“There are race issues at every school,” Dami Olubusi, 19, said. “The issue is, the administration doesn’t do anything about it. It is the school’s responsibility to deal with the behavior of its students. I should not have to intervene — that’s the frustration we’re having.”

Administration spokesman Michael Graca said the college is investigating the incident through a conduct process that typically takes up to two weeks before a finding is made.

“We’re all disturbed by what took place over the weekend,” he said. “We have a lot of programs that emphasize inclusion, diversity and race, so when something like this happens, it’s disturbing. We realize that not all of what we’re trying to get across gets through to all students. Today’s private meeting was to talk about what else we can do. We do not condone this. It is offensive and racist.”

Many of the students also talked about inclusivity and diversity as a whole. Taylor said she was also disturbed to see students donning other offensive costumes as well, such as students dressed as blind people, homeless people or Mexicans.

“I don’t care who you are, we need to hold the whole community accountable,” she said.

But Taylor said the text messages between the soccer players exacerbated the hurt of the situation, making their actions seem almost intentional.

“They knew they were going to upset people and they did it anyways,” she said. “I understand there are processes that need to be done (by the school), but what about us? We need answers. We need immediate action.”

The Black Student Association will host a second, student-run forum to discuss the issue at 6 p.m., Thursday in Hindle Auditorium. Students, public and alumni are invited.

Kayla Canne can be reached at 508-236-0336, kcanne@thesunchronicle.com or on Twitter at @SCNAttleboro.

(16) comments

kirby123456

It's a Halloween costume of a tv character why is it offensive

matty13

OK, come March 17th, I don't want anyone who isn't Irish putting on any shamrocks, or green hats, or leprechaun costumes. Getting pretty sick of people culturally appropriating my Irish heritage, advancing the racist idea that we are drunks then using that stereotyping to get drunk themselves. No No No. Don't do it.

mrjoseph

So.... it's okay for a black man to portray a white chick in a movie.... but it's NOT okay for a white chick to portray a black man for Halloween? I don't understand.

sanity71

Personally I’m more disappointed in the school punishing the entire girls soccer team than this girl choosing a costume of a movie character she thought was funny. Another liberal college pushing political correctness too far. I wonder if any African american students donned a Trump mask at any point over the last month. Would that be wrong too?

parker

"...has left members of the school community stunned, afraid and, quite frankly, hurt". AFRAID? Jesus Christ that is freaking ridiculous.

zudman

This is the most brilliant social experiment ever! This girl made a costume in blackface of a character of a a movie which is about black men portraying girls while in "white face". People were offended that the girl went blackface but didn't see the black comedians going whiteface which was the premise of the movie as being offensive! The bottom line - the US has gone overly PC - it's oke to make fun of white people in a movie but if you imitate the movie in costume, you are a racist. Guess what people.... the original movie is RACIST! Get over it people! Nobody Cried when the racist movie was in the theaters making millions!

jillian1977

I can't wait for the Al Jolson film festival...

quezlar

the amount of racism towards white people in todays society is frankly stunning

she dressed as terry crews, from a movie about blacks in whiteface, its even a pretty decent likeness

SJW liberals are destroying america

luckylady

I agree with the above comments. "Political correctness" has now gone way too far and anything and everything that can be complained about is. All of this only creates more negative feelings. To punish an entire team for what one person did is not acceptable. Especially what the one person did is hardly that awful.

anonymoose

here’s the funny thing- parts of the movie “soul man” were filmed on campus. now Wheatin had to agree to this and made money off this. the film is about a white guy that dresses as a black guy to get into harvard as a minority. I am a graduate of wheaton and wish i could take every penny back after seeing this. ok some feelings got hurt and people are upset. have some backbone and let there be some discouse . let it play out without the administraion playing nanny to a bunch of adult students. everyone needs to grow up and dry their tears- this is coming from a liberal too.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheaton_College_(Massachusetts)

http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0091991/

anonymoose

whoops misspelled wheaton. what i get for posting from iphone

michabunk

Oh man, many of these comments are so ignorant and off-base, where to begin?! This is a big deal! This student wore black-face-despite reminders and warnings on campus that disrespectful costumes are not acceptable! Furthermore, to set the record straight, the violent and demoralizing history of black-face continues to haunt populations of color in the United States. The same reason that racism cannot be accociated with white people- which is because white populations have not experienced the same level of oppression in this country as they imposed upon people of color (which was written into the Constitution and continues to oppress non-white populations today -think white privilege and centuries of inequality) makes "white-face" not a racist concept.
Additionally, for the Irish gentleman- read your history. Despite persecution in the 1800s in the US, the Irish still had more rights in the Constitution at that time than people of color- which enabled them to use the laws to their advantage and eventually run for office to make changes in their neighborhoods, something that the southern government at that time actively prevented African Americans from doing (that's the theory behind white privilege- invisible access to opportunity that does not exist to non-white populations)!!
Students of color on campus have every right to be fearful considering no legitimate/concrete actions have taken place against this student to send the message that this is not tolerated on campus. Without enforcement, students of color are left to feel vulnerable and undervalued on campus with fears that this could very well happen again- with worse consequences than just hurt feelings (think Charlottesville). So please, take off your blinders and stop spreading hate and ignorance.

anonymoose

this is not charlottesville or furgusson mo thankfully. her halloween costume is not some sort of gateway form of expression that will eventually lead to spontaneous klan rallies at wheaton. she was simply relating to a charachter in popular culture and thats that. who knows she may have been on the fence about going as taylor swift? sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

if a white kid admires barack obama and decides to go trick or treating as the former president how could he even do so without offending you? well he could start by not changing his skin color- i get that. but let’s also acknowledge the elephant in the room. psst... give you a clue- it could be that his brown skin color is one of his most obvious defining physical characteristics, along with some big ears. his haircut does nothing to hide this. it’s not disrespectful to acknowledge that, depict or imitate it as long as you are not being racist. cartoonists in liberal newspapers do this on a regular basis without any accusations of rascism.

in bet you would not think this way is she decided to go as chris christie and stuffed 3 king size pillows in her shirt and trousers. We could start going down the whole body shaming rabbit hole.

bottom line is we have to be able to acknowledge our obvious differences without falling to pieces. almost everyone in this country can be viewed as an oppressed minority. even male WASPs depending on where you live in the US. everyone has to have some courage. now MLk had it for sure, but not so sure about these activists. me thinks they are just inexperienced self absorbed weenies looking for a crisis to latch on to.

matty13

There is no such thing as "White Privilege", it's a made up concept to make minorities think the reason they are failing is because the system is rigged against them. And anybody who believes in, or advances this the false concept of White Privilege is only helping minorities continue to fail.

citizenx

ust exactly how many members are there in this BSA? What percentage of the total student population at Wheaton do they represent? Are we to believe that these poor upset BSA members who can afford to pay tuition at Wheaton have faced social and economic hardships? I doubt it. They might win this battle but they lost the war by turning off and turning away so many people who once might have supported the larger cause against racism. Because of their childish behavior they can bet many people will just not support anything they do ever again because they appear as selfish spoiled little brats. Time to grow up.

redrosetruck

What really is going on here is that those who feel "hurt" or are " crying" are really just hurting and crying for attention. But drama begets drama and they will find the drama they want but in the wrong direction. It is sad how soooo many want to cry out for drama just to get their name on the map. The Wheaton student who dressed up as this character surely saw no issue as she used a tanning lotion to accomplish the look. If so many are so upset about this why not attack the movie makers who produced the movie ?? Oh wait I know why because they have attorneys and they don't want to go after the true Demonstrators of this original look. THAT'S BALANCED --> NOTE MY SARCASM

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