North Dakota Students Spark Outrage With ‘Blackface’ Snapchats Mocking Black Lives Matter

  1. Home
  2. Culture Wars
By Nahema Marchal | 10:11 am, September 28, 2016

The University of North Dakota is investigating two racially charged photos of students that were posted on Snapchat within 48 hours of each other last week.

The first one, which shows four white students covered in black clay face masks with the caption “Black Lives Matter,” is disturbingly similar to another post by a Kansas State University student posted on the platform a week earlier.

In it, a young blond-haired woman, later identified as Paige Shoemaker, is pictured with a friend making gang hand signs, above a caption that reads: “Feels good to finally be a nigga.” The post prompted an immediate backlash and a formal apology from the university after the snap was posted on Twitter and went viral.  The student was booted from school, crucified on social media, and expelled from her sorority.

The second University of North Dakota post, captioned “Locked the black bitch out,” shows three white students in a dorm room grinning. Another student, Etonde Maloke, put the Snap on Facebook and wrote that the three students took her friend’s phone when she left the room and posted the picture on Snapchat without her knowledge:  “The University of North Dakota needs to take action against these students for this blatant act of racism,” she added.

UND President Mark Kennedy issued a statement on Sept. 22 in reaction to the two incidents: “I am appalled that within 48 hours two photos with racially charged messages have been posted on social media and associated with the UND campus community,” he wrote.  “I have been disappointed to learn that we have people in our university community who don’t know that the kind of behavior and messaging demonstrated in these two photos is not ok, and that, in fact, it is inexcusable.

“Blackface” makeup is considered widely offensive to a lot of people as it is associated with late 19th-century minstrel shows—a time when slavery was still legal — during which white performers impersonated  black people by rubbing coal onto their skin, and often caricatured them as simpletons and thieves.

But more than the tasteless makeup, it is the captioning and direct reference to Black Lives Matter that incensed some students on Facebook. “The very act of taking something so many people use and putting Black Lives Matter to mock us is racism,” wrote former university student Amina Chinnell-Mateen in a post.

The UND Police Department and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities are investigating the incidents.

According to university data, the student body is 79% white and 2.5% black.