Recently Whitworth made national news because of our women’s soccer team. If you haven’t heard of it the Whitworth women’s soccer team has a costume contest each year when they go bowling for a team-building activity. This year, a number of players chose to dress up as the Jackson 5 and painted their faces black to further enhance their costume. A picture of their costume was shared on social media by one of the players and quickly went viral, prompting the university to act.
As a student of color, I am appalled. Not at these players and students, I know some of these girls. I know that there was absolutely no malice in their hearts when they chose that costume and chose to put that paint on their faces. That being said, the paint on their faces was a very politically and emotionally charged action.
I am appalled at the fact that at a university that prides itself on diversity in its student population, curriculum and faculty, allowed these students to get to this point without knowing the strong connotations behind their costumes.
On a greater level, I am uncomfortable with the fact that for a decent number of Whitworth students, this incident was the first time that they heard about blackface and its history. That being said, the only reason that I know the history is because I am a person of African American heritage and it was important to my parents that I know some of our history. I never learned about blackface in school.
On a national level, we need to fundamentally change the way that we teach about racial history in America. At a more personal level, I am honestly grateful that this incident occurred. I believe that it gives Whitworth the chance to practice challenge its students to be more aware of themselves and of others.
Students often critique the Core program, but I think that it has immense value. Not only has it helped me develop my own beliefs and has challenged me; it also represents a perfect opportunity to bring diverse viewpoints to students who might not have encountered them otherwise.
I believe that the action taken by the school was appropriate, but I also believe that the school has the chance to really make an impact on the lives of its students because of this incident. I challenge Whitworth to do more than just start the conversation. The conversation about race and racial history here at Whitworth should have been started a long time ago, particularly given our nation’s climate on that subject. I challenge Whitworth to act. We should bring more diversity into the classroom.
Contact Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org