KCBX reported that a picture surfaced from a party at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, showing a closeup of a fraternity brother smiling and wearing black paint on his face and neck.
It's unclear where the photo originated, but students said they received the image via Snapchat, and an unnamed Cal Poly professor posted it to Facebook saying the photo was sent to her by current and former students.
The fraternity quickly rose to its own defense, saying in its original statement that the private party was an event featuring six teams, each with its own color. The fraternity member in the picture, they claimed, was wearing black to represent the color of his team. The statement was also a reminder to fraternity brothers that their actions represent the fraternity.
By Sunday another social media photo surfaced from the same party showing fraternity members dressed in stereotypical urban ganster wear, including sagging pants and prison tattoos, as well as showing gang signs. The caption underneath read, "She want a gangster not a pretty boy."
Cal Poly frat under fire for blackface, gangster photos put on interim suspension https://t.co/jHaquL0pci— #ProgressiveParty (@GottaBernNow) April 10, 2018
This picture prompted speculation that it contradicted Lambda Chi Alpha's originial "team colors" explanation. A couple days later, Lambda Chi Alpha edited its public statement to remove any reference to black face paint or "different color teams."
Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote an email to KCBX, saying that the university, “finds deplorable any acts that would seek to hurt, offend, intimidate, or frighten any member of our campus community. The university is aware of the posting about the fraternity event and is investigating the matter at this time.”
This incident comes as a string of costume controversies have hit colleges over the past few years. It's unclear whether young people have become less aware of the racist implications of such costumes and thus are wearing them more often, or if they are simply drawing more attention in the social media age.
Either way, this fraternity brother should have known — if say, he picked up a book — the deeply racist history of a white man painting his face black.
Banner image credit: Pexels, Burst