Back in Black
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 01:10
Ed Ray, president of Oregon State University, announced in an email yesterday that the university will resume promoting the wearing of black attire to the Oct. 20 and Nov. 17 football games.
This announcement came after university officials had announced Monday their intention to abandon a campaign to wear black to two football games. Since then, several news outlets have covered the story originally by The Daily Barometer and the issue has garnered both regional and national attention.
“This simple act [of wearing black attire] sends a profound message: that we are united as a community and that those who engage in behavior that is hurtful to others will not deter us from taking this next step in appropriately living our values,” Ray said in his email.
Ray apologized for not engaging in the discussion about abandoning the campaign sooner. He also highlighted the history of the 2007 blackout incident and said the university knows that real progress had been made toward creating a more inclusive university.
However, it is not entirely clear why the university is suddenly reversing its decision.
“Ed Ray felt it was time to change the conversation and focus on what OSU is all about,” said Steve Clark, vice president for university marketing and relations. “We changed the focus on what it means to be a safe university that respects diversity and inclusion.”
Student leaders for the most part appear to be pleased with the university’s current stance.
“We think the university is moving in the right direction to address the issue,” said Amelia Harris, president of the Associated Students of OSU. “It is important that we come together as a community. We are happy the university is now engaged and they want to talk about it.”
Anderson DuBoise, external coordinator of the Black Cultural Center, said students from the Black Cultural Center and the other cultural centers were currently working on an event for the Friday before the first blackout game. He said the event would include a presentation and discussion on the history of blackface and minstrel shows in the United States, and would also include presentations on what to wear to the game and what proper attire is.
“The issue before was there was no real talk about keeping what happened [in 2007] from happening again,” DuBoise said. “People in the community are excited about the blackout but they are also afraid that what happened in the past could happen again.”
Ray McGuinness, who started a Facebook group to continue to encourage students to wear black to the Oct. 20 game, was also happy about President Ray’s statement.
“We believe we’re mature enough; we can come together to make this a positive event for everyone,” McGuinness said. “It’s up to us as students and fans to make sure we don’t ruin it again for another five years.”
About 1,000 users already say they’re attending the Facebook event, “Stand United – Wear black to Reser vs. Utah.”
Clark said the university will have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with student leaders and others throughout the university to discuss further plans to educate the campus and plan on further steps to take before the blackout on Oct. 20.
The university initially abandoned its campaign on Monday after several student leaders, most notably ASOSU, brought forward concerns that there had not been enough education on how to act appropriately or acknowledgement of what had happened in 2007.
On Oct. 5, 2007, the Barometer published a photo illustration that depicted a student wearing black body and face paint that looked eerily similar to the blackface worn by white minstrel performers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many students at the time felt offended by the photo, as well as the diagram that instructed students to paint their faces black. At the Oct. 6, 2007 game, there were reports of students wearing Afro wigs as well as black body and face paint, which many felt was a highly offensive act. In the following weeks, there were protests against the Barometer by students who felt the newspaper had instigated the racially insensitive actions taken by some students. The newspaper ran an apology on Oct. 26, 2007 in response to the outcry against the photo and that the staff did not publish a column about it until a couple of weeks after.
While Oct. 20 is still a couple of weeks away, fans are looking forward to the game and supporting their Beavers while wearing black.
“No matter what color we’re wearing,” McGuinness said, “we all need to get out there and support our football team.”
Don Iler, editor-in-chief