CARBONDALE — A Facebook post showing an SIU student in blackface, standing in front of a Confederate flag, is creating a stir locally and nationally.
The post shows a woman and a man, each with their face covered in a black substance, standing in front of a Confederate flag. The woman is an SIU student but the young man is not, according to Tom Woolf, associate director of university communications and marketing.
The post in question started to trend nationally after Shaun King, a senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, tweeted it.
Woolf said the university could not identify the student or say what actions she might be subjected to.
"We're somewhat limited about what we can say when it involves students," Woolf said.
The university's interim chancellor responded to the post, encouraging students who feel threatened or at risk to call 911 or report incidents to the Dean of Students Office at 618-453-2461. He also noted that the university's Counseling and Psychological Services staff is available — at 618-453-5371 — to assist students needing help.
Painting one's face with black or dark paint in order to portray a person of African-American descent is considered an attempt to demean people and can be perceived as an extreme form of stereotyping and caricature of blacks, according to the DoSomething.Org website. The practice has its roots in 1920s vaudeville performances, like that popularized by Al Jolson.
Though some say the Confederate flag represents white or Southern pride, others say it is a symbol of racism, as it was the flag flown by southern states that supported slavery. The Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina State House grounds after the murder of nine African-American people inside a Charleston, South Carolina, church by Dylan Roof, who allegedly adhered to it as a symbol of white supremacy.
SIU's Interim Chancellor Brad Cowell posted this response today on the university's Facebook page:
"To the Campus Community:
"This week’s presidential election was extremely divisive and emotions are running high. A number of people have contacted my office regarding offensive behavior and comments, including social media posts. While federal law prohibits us from discussing issues related to specific students, please know that we deeply share your concerns. We are reviewing every incident and will take appropriate action.
"I urge every member of our community to help create a respectful, safe and welcoming environment. We expect students to abide by the Saluki Creed: 'As a Saluki, I pledge to forward ideas and ideals. I will discourage bigotry and celebrate diversity by striving to learn from differences in people’s ideas, and opinions. I will embrace the ideals of freedom of civilized expression, intellectual inquiry, and respect for others.'
To read the rest of Colwell's post,
This post has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly said the controversial post was first reposted on SIU's Facebook page on Oct. 25.