UNCP investigates student in blackface on social media

By: Scott Witten - Laurinburg Exchange

PEMBROKE — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has released a statement after a racially insensitive photograph of a student was posted on social media.

A photograph shows a white student, identified as Kayla Rowe, pictured in blackface with the caption: “When you just wanna fit in with the black girls.”

It quickly made the rounds on social media Wednesday causing many to demand the university investigate the incident.

On the school’s own Facebook page, Chancellor Robin Cummings said the post was inconsistent with UNCP’s values.

“I am deeply troubled by the social media post from 2015 that is recirculating online,” Cummings said. “The post is wholly inconsistent with UNCP’s values of diversity and inclusion.”

UNCP student De’Quan White posted a copy of the photo on Facebook. He called it “offensive and unsettling.”

“Blackface is based on racist anti-black stereotypes which originated in 19th century America as a way of ridiculing black people,” White wrote. “This behavior is dehumanizing. Black people are not costumes.”

White said UNCP officials need to take action.

“It is beneath this school as a supposed diverse safe place.” he said. “We cannot let conscious acts of racism, intolerance, and insensitivity go without note and consequence.”

Others said the post was even more troubling coming when many are celebrating Black History Month.

“I would like to know what UNC Pembroke is doing about it,” said UNCP graduate Danielle Cloud. “This is unacceptable. As diverse as Pembroke is and has been when I was in school, this isn’t something you can just let slide or slip under the rug.”

Nuekie Aku Opata, a former licensure officer for UNCP, said she found a similar undercurrent of racism at the university during her 12 years there.

“I’m not surprised,” said Opata, who helped establish the African American Cultural Society of Scotland County. “There is a culture of that on campus. It should not happen, but it does.”

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke NAACP and the UNCP Pan Hellenic Council have sent a letter to school officials saying that the case should be investigated and the student held accountable.

The group also “demanded” the implementation of diversity education workshops at new student orientations. The campus organizations also said the student, in accordance with the student handbook, should complete 75 hours of community service with the UNCP Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“Whether the young woman in the photograph took it with the purpose to offend or not, the fact of the matter is she did and she must be held accountable for her actions,” the group said in the letter.

Post reviewed

The chancellor said the post was reviewed by the Division of Student Affairs as soon as it was reported.

The university is prohibited from releasing the findings of such investigations and any resulting disciplinary action due to the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to Cummings.

“I understand the intense reaction the social media post has generated at UNCP, which is proudly one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the nation,” Cummings said in his statement. “The reaction reflects the importance our campus community places on diversity and inclusion, and it is my hope this incident will lead to constructive dialogue and greater understanding.”

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Scott Witten

Laurinburg Exchange

Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023

Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023