College students are always thinking of new exciting ideas for their next big party. At the University of Southern Mississippi, things are no different. In November of 2011, students held an “80’s” themed party. A group of six girls from the sorority group Phi Mu, decided to dress up as the Huxtables from the popular 80’s sitcom “The Cosby Show”. The white skinned girls painted their faces black so they could look more like the African American characters. The students were then accused of portraying “blackface” and therefore were put on probation. It has become mandatory for them to take culture and diversity classes. The six girls were told that they are not cultured enough and that they did not know enough about African American history.
“Though it is clear that these women had no ill intent, it was also clear that they had little cultural awareness or competency, and did not understand the historical implication of costuming in blackface,” said Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway.”
I can understand how African Americans could have been insulted from this action. From as early as the 1400’s, blacks were not allowed to act in the theater. White people would paint their faces black and “act black.” They would portray blacks as silly buffoons and morally degrade them.
I personally do not believe that these college students had any intentions of portraying blackface nor did they have any idea how much it would insult people. They painted their faces simply too look more like the Huxtables. If they had gone to the party with white skin, they could have been mistaken for any other 80’s sitcom family. The Huxtables were famous for being the first wealthy African American family on television. Next to all of the white families in Growing Pains, Wonder Years, Full House and Cheers, we now had the Cosby Show.
As a society, we have to stop rushing to conclusions that people are being racist. African Americans have not had an easy past and seeing whites with painted faces could potentially bring back bad memories, however, I do not think the girls should have been reprimanded. The only way we can help beat racism is by moving forward to a brighter future rather then holding onto an evil past.