The University of Tennessee is condemning a picture circulating Thursday afternoon on social media showing what appears to be four students, two of them in blackface. The picture had the caption, “We for racial equality boys. Bout to get this free college now that I’m black lets gooooo #blacklivesmatter.”
UT condemns social media picture depicting blackface
(WATE blurred the faces of the people in the photo after we were unable to conclusively verify their identifies and get comment.)
The university says they were made aware of the post earlier in the day.
“Earlier today, the university was made aware of a screengrab of a Snapchat photo that included four individuals we believe to be our students. Two of them were in blackface. The image is repulsive and the caption abhorrent. The racism displayed in this image does not represent the behavior we expect of students or our Volunteer values. The BIAS Education Response Team—in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students—has been made aware of the situation and the university is determining how to handle this incident. Federal law prohibits the university from sharing how the university handles matters with individual students,” the university said in the statement.
UT, Knoxville NAACP issue calls to action
The UT chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People expressed “strong condemnation to the series of racial attacks that have happened in the last few months, and the most recent form of blackface on social media platforms.”
Read the full press release:
Meeting held at Office of Multicultural Student Life
The NAACP campus chapter called on students, faculty and staff to be present at the Office of Multicultural Student Life, which is located in the Frieson Black Cultural Center to voice their concerns following the incident. That meeting began at 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
Hundreds of students attended to share their own personal experiences or how the photo, and displays like it, personally affects them. There were no cell phones, recording devices, or photgraphy in the meeting so students would feel safe to share without judgement.
“It makes me feel very angry, I am concerened that people that go to this school think it’s okay to post something like that and there’s no reprecautions about it,” said Taylor Gladney, a freshman at UT.
Gladney says she hopes this is the beginning of a bigger conversation, one she says she will continue to have as a student at UT.
Others shared personal stories of the impact of the photo’s caption.
“There was a lot of assumptions made by that post… I pay my own tuition, my parents do help me occasionally, but I do pay it myself. For someone to assume I got a full ride… I got no scholarships from UT. All of my money came from the government. I took out $10,000 to be able to eat and live here… to be able to eat and live here,” said Khadijah Melvin, a freshman at UT.
Melvin, Gladney, and Paige Yates, all freshman students, say the meeting and open conversation was one way they plan to change campus as students.
“It starts with us, it doesn’t start with anyone else but ourselves. An injustice anywhere, is an injustice everywhere,” said Yates, “We’re not gonna let one thing tear us apart, we’re not going to let several things tear us apart.”
Aftermath of picture on Twitter
Two persons who were in the picture have apologized on Twitter.
UT’s Board of Trustees will have their regularly scheduled meeting March 1 at 1 p.m.