Zero Tolerance means Zero Tolerance

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The topic of Blackface and offensive Halloween ‘costumes’ has re-emerged on campus recently and it is sad that, in 2013, we must yet again be reiterating the reasons a Zero Tolerance policy exists in relation to such behaviour.

Firstly, the symbol of blackface is in and of itself racist and derogatory, referring directly back to presentations of Black people – in entertainment – as simple and ignorant, during and after slavery.  White America’s perceptions of Black people were formed by these racist caricatures, which further subordinated and dehumanised them in society.
This modern ‘dressing up’ as an ethnic group member and the darkening of the skin to depict this – as entertainment – trivialises this experience and the continuing experiences of being Black in this society today.

If you’re unable to partake in ‘fancy dress’ without plastering your face with black paint or make-up, the chances are it’s not appropriate.

Of course, this recent controversy is not just limited to blackface but costume insensitivity extending to stereotypes of other racial and religious groups.

These costumes too present a caricatured and unsubtle presentation of ethnic groups, homogenising and diminishing their diversity to a number of flat, exaggerated features paraded for entertainment.

The people most subject to the social baggage that comes with these stereotypes, those who are painfully aware of the racialised boundaries of modern society, are therefore unable to dismiss such actions as ‘just a bit of fun’.

They can’t just pick up the costume and leave behind the struggle.

These negative stereotypes are deeply offensive and in a society which is far from post-racial, if members of a particular oppressed group or community take offence to such actions, that should be the only justification needed for stopping your oppressive behaviour.

These disgusting characterisations, like Blackface, of BME people were not simply an act by a few rogue racist individuals, but symptomatic of an entire racist ideology and system which upheld and justified it – a system which still exists today, in different guise.

The belief that all this is ‘harmless fun’ or ‘not that serious’ indicates a sense of self-entitlement and privilege that, consciously or unconsciously, leads you to ignore and disregard an issue which affects large portions of a particular ethnic group.

Therefore, the dismissal of BME students taking offence towards these depictions as an ‘overreaction’ disregards the feelings of individuals whose lives and existences are shaped, contoured – coloured, even – and restricted by the fact that they belong to a particular ethnic group.

Being a member of a dominant racial group in not only a racist, but a white supremacist society, means being afforded the luxury of being oblivious to these racial privileges and injustices.

The enforcement of the Zero Tolerance policy hardly limits the abundance of costume options, whereas BME students do not have the same choice in their race or culture; they are defined by it.

Skin colour and culture are NOT costumes.

Zero Tolerance policy has been enforced to ensure that the struggle need not be played out every time an incident like this emerges, and we will stand by it.

-BEMA

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8 responses »

  1. Whilst I completely understand your article and viewpoints, there seems to be a misunderstanding about the most recent episode of “blackface”. As I understood the original article, their faces had been painted black in order to look like bats, not people.

    In the light of this information, should it not be allowed? Obviously dressing up and making fun of an oppressed race is wrong, but I am unaware of any problems with oppressed flying mammals.
    Yes, “blackface” in respect of race is wrong, but it shouldn’t mean the control of an entire colour.

  2. Hi, obviously ‘blacking up’ to dress up as a black person is never ok, but apparently there was a group of students dressed as bats who painted themselves black, what are your thoughts on this? Obviously it isn’t necessary to paint yourself black in order to portray a bat but do you think that it is still offensive if it is not done to portray a black person?

  3. Thank you for writing this. I’m pretty disgusted that so many people think they’re being discriminated against by being told not to dress up as racist caricatures.

  4. Your an absolute disgrace of a society who are obviously racist yourself. To claim that this country is white supremacist is absolutely ridiculous, and I’m tired of people like you making life less fun. If you were actually complaining about racism in employment opportunities or in the police force then I’d have sympathy with you. However, you continue to “whinge” about what some drunk bloke is wearing at Fab. I couldn’t care less if your offended

  5. You are an absolute disgrace. So if people dress up as white people, is that racist too… I firmly believe that you must be living under a rock somewhere as you clearly have no idea of what modern day society is like. Painting your face black is nothing to do with this outdated nonsense you’re spouting about ‘blackface’, it is because the person they are dressing up as is black. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If I want to dress up as Eminem or 50 cent I will, whats the difference? I can tell you for a fact, there is none. I would have thought bigoted morons like you would have ceased existing in this day and age but apparently you can’t get past the fact that people from different ethnic backgrounds live together (and yes that means sometimes for a bit of HARMLESS fun they dress up as someone that is maybe a different skin colour to them). Therefore, I have come two conclusions. Either (And I imagine this is the case) you are a racist and you get kicks from suggesting that the whole of the UK is white supremacist ( how deluded can you be?!!) and therefore ironically creating divides between ethnic groups over petty issues such as this. Or you want to live in a world where everybody is treading on eggshells. Yes, in society there is REAL racism continuing, however I have no doubt that this will be eradicated in the future. What we don’t need is morons like you reading between the lines of text that simply isn’t there. Ironically all you are doing is undermining a great cause and creating tensions, well done! One last question, can white people join BEMA? I rest my case.

  6. Racism definition (abridged) as per Oxford English Dictionary: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races:” (1)

    Now with this in mind, consider the following quote from the above – “Being a member of a dominant racial group in not only a racist, but a white supremacist society, means being afforded the luxury of being oblivious to these racial privileges and injustices.”

    i.e. – being caucasian inherently impedes one’s judgement in issues of race.

    Pretty racist, wouldn’t you say?

    (1) Oxford English Dictionary, available from URL: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/racism

    ps. I’m writing this under a pseudonym for fear of being victimised for making this observation. It is never OK to quash debate through intimidation.

  7. Do you honestly believe that a white dude dressing up as a bat is an evil racist who believes that white people should reign supreme over the dirty smelly blacks like myself? The only REAL racism I have experienced while at this university is from idiots like you claiming that non-racist things are racist. Can’t we all get along and deal with the real racists — the ones who are causing actual physical harm — like the EDL?

    TL;DR Calm your fuckin panties down.

  8. Are you not going to respond to any of the very valid comments to your piece? As a member of a minority group you make me ashamed.

    I find it quite sickening that a group such as yourselves which is mandated to represent minorities and protect them from racism at the university can write such a bigoted piece with the temerity to call our society white supremacist.

    Whoever wrote this should be reported to the Guild and your position put under question, such a skewed and racist view of our country is very ill-fitting to your position.

    Finally, I have a massive issue with calling dressing as a bat ‘blackface’, this is simply playing with the facts to meet your own ends.

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