On the campus of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, hundreds of students came together to learn from a disturbing incident that took place over Halloween — a student dressed in blackface as part of a costume contest.
"I think it's a little disappointing to go to college and to seek an education as a student and just to see something so hateful and bias-related happen," said Wheaton student Steven Flowers.
The student who dressed in blackface is a member of the women's soccer team. The school announced Thursday it has now barred the team from playing in this weekend's upcoming NEWMAC tournament.
"Our generation is supposed to be so aware of this kind of stuff," said Wheaton student Sarah Sutherland. "And evidently, not everybody is."
According to the Black Student Association at Wheaton, the student who dressed in the controversial costume was trying to portray a character in "White Chicks," a movie in which two black men masquerade as white women. The association hosted students on campus Thursday evening to teach them about the history of blackface and how it's been used to demean African Americans.
"Blackface historically has been used to stereotype, dehumanize and to bastardize particularly black men, but the entire black community," said Ashley Tsegai, president of the Black Student Association at Wheaton.
"I am particularly dismayed that this student did not act alone, but was part of a group of individuals who actively participated in this event and then attempted to cover it up," Wheaton President Dennis Hanno said in a statement. "Racist and offensive behavior will not be tolerated at Wheaton."
The Black Student Association issued the school a list of demands, among them that the students involved in the costume incident be "removed from their extracurricular activities and campus employment," and that "all athletes and athletic staff watch the Spike Lee film, 'Bamboozled,' and participate in a debrief facilitated by relevant faculty and staff."
"I hope that they understand what they have done is wrong and that they apologize," said student Allie Barrett.
"It's a learning experience for us all," said student Candice Appiah.