A UC Irvine fraternity is trying to distance itself from a member-produced video featuring a man in blackface. But UCI’s Black Student Union says it’s an example of racial insensitivity that is common on campus. This month, members of Lambda Theta Delta, a historically Asian-American fraternity, filmed four students lip-syncing to the Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z song “Suit and Tie.”
The fraternity member portraying Jay-Z wears blackface throughout.
The video was uploaded to the fraternity’s YouTube page, where UCI students pointed out this week there was a second video featuring blackface.
“First of all we’d like to point out that this blackface video isn’t the first, nor is it the last, example of racism that’s been shown on this campus,” said Ainaria Johnson, co-chairwoman of UCI’s Black Student Union. Johnson alleges members of her organization have had to move dorms after they were repeatedly subjected to racial slurs from other students. The campus’ student body of more than 27,000 is 2.6% African American, according to a UCI spokesman. Any incident of racism or insensitivity the administration knows about is investigated, said Thomas Parham, UCI’s vice chancellor for student affairs.
“We as a campus, I as an administrator, we are shocked,” he said. “We are dismayed to see what I think is insensitive in a video parody that was made by these individuals.”
It’s unclear if the video was made out of ignorance or disregard for black students, Parham said, but he added the university is investigating.
“In either case it’s reprehensible,” he said.
The fraternity has apologized for the “Suit and Tie” video.
It was the work of four members who were ignorant of the racist implications of blackface, according to the fraternity’s president, Darius Obana.
“We understand that there are absolutely no excuses for the content in the video and it was idiotic to have it uploaded on Facebook and YouTube,” he said on his personal Facebook on Wednesday.
He was unaware of the video until it was posted to Lambda Theta Delta’s Facebook page earlier this month, Obana said. According to Obana, the members were reprimanded and the video was immediately removed.
“We did talk to them and consult them and let them know that even though you might think it’s funny, it’s not funny to someone else,” Obana said.
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