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Bethel Univ. Students Protest After Lil Wayne Blackface Skit

Posted: Sunday – May 16, 2010

Despite an apology issued by a Bethel University student for impersonating rapper Lil Wayne in blackface, students at the school voiced their displeasure over what they deemed as an offensive performance during a recent event.

On Friday (May 14), students held a demonstration on campus while offering a list of demands to address racial issues at Bethel. The protest came two weeks after five students performed a skit at the school’s annual Mr. BU fundraiser for the student group Acting on AIDS.

During the event, the students performed several songs in the skit. The student impersonating Lil Wayne stood with his back to the audience until the final tune, a Lil Wayne song he lip-synched. The senior, whose costume included dreadlocks, gold teeth and baggy pants, turned around to reveal his face, which was painted black.

The controversial performance, which took place May 1, immediately ignited a firestorm of criticism on the Bethel campus from minority students. Although the university followed it’s racial response protocol after hearing how students were offended by the skit, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that those attending the Friday’s protest were not happy with Bethel’s response.

Among the demands delivered at the demonstration were the reinstitution of the university’s intercultural staff position which had been eliminated as well as more diversity training for faculty and students that would include a required course for incoming freshmen.

In addition to the protest, the controversial skit has resulted in renewed discussion on race relations on campus as well as the launch of an investigation in light of Bethel treating the performance as a bias incident. While a spokeswoman for the school cited student privacy law as her reason for not commenting specifically on the case, she revealed to the Tribune that the Bethel student handbook outlines possible penalties for such incidents that include a behavioral warning, suspension from co-curricular activities and reconciliation.

The Mr. BU performance isn’t the first blackface-related incident to happen on a Minnesota school campus. In 2007, Macalester College student was censured for attending a campus house party wearing blackface and a noose around his neck while being accompanied by a student dressed as a Ku Klux Klan member. That same year, six Hamline University football players were suspended from their team for wearing blackface and body paint to impersonate African tribesmen for an off-campus Halloween party.

In response to the backlash over their performance, the five students sent an e-mail to faculty and undergraduates addressing the controversy. In the message, the group said that they had not intended to offend or hurt anyone with their impersonation of Lil Wayne.

“However, we realize our skit was offensive and hurtful,” the e-mail continued. “We are saddened by the fact that we caused pain and offense to our brothers and sisters.”

The this time, Bethel adninistrators are not commening on specific disciplinary action that will be taken against the students involved in the case despite efforts to resolve the situation.

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