Two students have been accused of racism after allegedly “blacking up” for a fancy dress party costume themed around Orange Is The New Black.
The young women were also accused of cultural appropriation for styling their hair in cornrows for the outfits, which they wore to a house party.
Both students, who attend prestigious Bristol University in southwest England, denied the claims, and say they were wearing their regular makeup and trying a new hairdo, apparently inspired by character Tricia Miller.
The race firestorm emerged after the head of the university’s Afro-Caribbean Society called them “disgusting” and vowed to see them punished. Bristol’s student union later termed the costumes an example of “pervasive racism”.
The women – languages student Arabella Podmore and an unnamed friend – were photographed at a house party event sponsored by energy supplement REON last Friday. The theme was “Memes, Teens and 2016”.
Both gave anonymous interviews defending themselves to The Bristol Tab, saying they were wearing their usual makeup which was “badly blended”.
I have recently returned from holiday in Cape Verde and was quite suntanned. My make up suited the hairstyle, clothes and fitted in with the character from the TV series. No more to it than that.
And her friend said:
I find it deeply offensive to be accused of being racist for my hairstyle, make-up and outfit… [it] suggests that I, a 19 year old “white girl”, cannot get my hair braided as I wish.
…wearing BB CRÈME, which is not to be confused with foundation is what I always wear on a night out: I wore the exact amount at the party as I do every other time I go out.
Chanté Joseph, the Afro-Caribbean society head, criticized the girls repeatedly online after seeing their photographs on Facebook.
She wrote: “This is disgusting and I will not rest until these girls are dealt with properly because it’s out of order and insensitive.”
When one tweeter linked to the story and said “not everything is racist”, she replied “shutup”.
A students’ union spokesman echoed her concerns, saying: “This is just one of a number of incidents to have come to light over the past few weeks: it needs to be recognised that racism is pervasive at Bristol, and at Universities [sic] across the country.”
Bristol University has emerged as a hotbed of disputes over costumes and race.
In the past few months, the university’s cheerleading society was censured over a “chav-themed” social event deemed to be mocking poor people.
The university’s musical theater society was also plunged into a scandal when it cancelled a performance of Verdi’s opera Aida because of pressure over the casting of white students in the role of Ethiopian characters.