NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A Snapchat photo of a Quinnipiac University student in what appeared to be black face with a banner reading Black Lives Matter went viral across social media and was met with outrage.
Quinnipiac University’s provost, Mark Thompson, responded today with a message to the Quinnipiac community saying, “The university investigation found that the student in the photo put a cosmetic mask on her face and was photographed by another student. The student who took the photograph added a racially offensive remark and posted it on social media without the subject’s knowledge. Given the information provided to the university, the student pictured in the photo that was posted on social media was not deemed responsible for the posting or its content. The student who took the photo, added the remark and posted it is no longer a member of the university community.”
Across Quinnipiac’s campus, the photo was a hot topic.
“I know my roommates and I all talked about it because it kind of all blew up last night,” said Daria Orekhov, a Quinnipiac University student.
“I’m disgusted,” said Kerriann Gravesande, another Quinnipiac University student.
On Tuesday night a photo posted to Snapchat was screen captured and reposted across social media. It pictured a smiling Quinnipiac student with a mud mask on her face and a banner that read Black Lives Matter. The appearance of black face and the banner fanned a fiery backlash on social media.
“I think it was shared ten thousand times, so there’s a lot of people talking about it and not in a positive light,” said Orekhov.
Kerriann Gravesande says she shared it on social media too.
“I did post it on Instagram yesterday because I wanted to see people’s thoughts on this and they’re not happy I can tell you that much.” said Gravesande. “They’re just as disgusted as I am. The bigotry the racism…Anybody can do a facial mask at night, I mean and this is fine whatever color it is, but for you to say Black Lives Matter? That is not a joke. Black Lives Matter is not a joke.” The Black Lives Matter movement sprung up around the shootings of black people by police. It also supports the lives of people who have been marginalized.
On Quinnipiac’s Facebook page hundreds of posts criticized the Snapchat photo and the student in it. Yet, Quinnipiac officials say the student in the photo did not post the picture and did not have knowledge that it was released. The student that added the banner and posted it without the woman’s knowledge is no longer at Quinnipiac.
Black students felt the photo is part of a bigger problem.
“I just felt hurt personally because black women on this campus carry this skin with us every day,” said Ruth Onyirimba, a Quinnipiac student. “It’s not something we joke about it’s something that we’ve had to learn over years to take pride in. To have somebody try to undermine that – there aren’t words for it.
In Quinnipiac professor’s Don Sawyer’s class, the discussion turned to why the post was hurtful.
“Because it’s not your reality doesn’t mean that that reality is not real for someone else,” said Sawyer. “We have to practice empathy so I gave them a history as to the understanding of why blackface is seen as it is.”
Another lesson became also became clear to students. The need to be responsible for what you post.
“Got to watch what you put out there, ” said Nico Bortman, a Quinnipiac Student.
Connecticut NAACP officials are meeting with Quinnipiac leadership to discuss the incident and how to move forward.
Below is the full statement released from Quinnipiac University.
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
I am providing this update regarding the investigation and review of the facts surrounding the racially offensive photo that was posted on social media. The university investigation found that the student in the photo put a cosmetic mask on her face and was photographed by another student. The student who took the photograph added a racially offensive remark and posted it on social media without the subject’s knowledge. Given the information provided to the university, the student pictured in the photo that was posted on social media was not deemed responsible for the posting or its content. The student who took the photo, added the remark and posted it is no longer a member of the university community.
I ask that all members of our community learn from this experience and work together in ways to enhance our understanding and appreciation for one another. I also encourage your participation in various programming and opportunities that support our values associated with diversity and inclusion.
Mark A. Thompson, PhD
Executive Vice President and Provost
Sent from my iPhone