Uproar over student 'blackface' video

  • 27/05/2014

A popular University of Canterbury student society has issued an apology this morning after using 'blackface' in an advertisement.

ENSOC – the university's Engineering Society – published a two-minute video on YouTube last night depicting a parody of the song 'Candy Shop'. Titled '100 Cent', the clip was an advertisement for ENSOC's campus shop and included an actor who had painted his face black to portray popular rapper 50 Cent.

The video gathered around 1000 views overnight but has since been made private, and the student group has publicly apologised for "the offence taken".

The short film generated some uproar around campus today and the university's feminist society FemSoc has taken its complaints to campus officials.

Vice-president Sionainn Byrnes says the video was extremely thoughtless.

"It's been pretty well-established that blackface is totally offensive and not okay," she says. "I don't think you could at all classify it as satire, it just seems very thoughtless.

"ENSOC needs to be aware that they don't exist in a vacuum, the way they represent students reflects on all of us."

ENSOC secretary Rupert Curlett refused to comment when contacted by 3 News today but the group has since issued an apology on its Facebook page.

"Unfortunately, we've had complaints that the video was racist/it propagated racism, which was never our intention," they said in a post.

"We apologise for any offence taken – we were ignorant of the racial stereotypes associated with the make-up used. We will not make this mistake again."

The group also promised to make a donation to Amnesty International as a "show of good faith", saying the funds would come from the committee's personal accounts.

The University of Canterbury Students' Association (UCSA) spoke to ENSOC committee members this morning and is currently investigating.

"I think it's really important to note it wasn't intended negatively, a mistake has been made and ENSOC has realised that," says president Sarah Platt. "At this stage we're investigating all the facts and we'll make a decision from there… it was in their mind a parody video."

The association hopes to get some answers over the next few days and are considering disciplinary action, Ms Platt says.

"There are a number of things we can do – fines, community service, un-affiliating clubs if it is that serious."

But for media and communication student Laura Tretheway, ENSOC's apology is too little too late.

"They said a lot about how people 'thought' it was racist," she says. "They're not really saying what they did was racist, they're just saying what they did has been thought of as such.

"I think this is indicative of a bigger problem within these groups and at the university. It just seems like this should be a place where everyone is learning the opposite."

3 News

source: newshub archive