Oklahoma State University students are protesting after two separate blackface incidents took place on campus within the same week.
The first happened on Martin Luther King Jr Day, when a group of four white female students at the Stillwater campus posed in front of an OSU State flag.
Two of the women appeared to be wearing beauty face masks in the picture, which was captioned: ‘Celebrating our first MLK Day off of school!’
Just days later, a second OSU student sent a Snapchat of herself in a similar face mask. The caption read: ‘When he says he only likes black girls’.
Oklahoma State University students are protesting after two blackface incidents took place on campus in one week – including this photo that was posted on Martin Luther King Jr Day
Just six days later, a student named Kandice Burgess (pictured) shared a Snapchat that also featured her in a beauty face mask and a caption referring to the black community
The posts quickly found their way on Twitter and went viral in the OSU community, with many students expressing outrage and dismay at their peers.
‘What a shame that some Cowboys have exposed such an ugly side of themselves,’ wrote the school’s African-American Student Association alongside the Instagram picture.
‘OSU, what are you going to do?’
Following the Snapchat incident, the organization decided it needed to take a stand and peacefully protested in front of President Burns Hargis’ office on Monday.
About 50 members participated, some locking their arms together in a show of unity while others carried signs that read ‘Being black is not a costume’ and ‘Blackface is never funny’.
Terrance Williams, the group’s vice president, said their ‘immediate reaction’ when they saw the Snapchat picture was ‘Not again’.
‘We’re very disgusted and annoyed by the situation and the lack of care from some of our fellow students,’ he said.
Kandice Burgess, the student behind the Snapchat, has since publicly apologized for the image in three Facebook posts.
Following both incidents, the school’s African-American Student Association protested outside the office of President Burns Hargis (also pictured) on Monday
Many held signs celebrating unity, while others wrote that ‘Being black is not a costume’ and ‘Blackface is never funny’
Burgess wrote that she was ‘deeply sorry for those that I have offended’ but claimed her intentions were ‘not at all to be racist’.
She also claimed that she had never ‘heard of blackface’ until the controversy.
‘Clearly, that picture was a result of stupidity, but it is also clear that there was no harm intended,’ she wrote.
‘I did not say or imply anything about whites being superior to blacks. I did not say anything negative about blacks. I did not hear about the girls with their masks.’
‘I made a mistake. I am owning up to it. I just want everyone to know that I did not intentionally try to offend. I did not intentionally try to put down blacks.’
Burgess wrote that she was also ‘absolutely devastated’ that people now considered her to be a racist.
‘Racism is a problem that I am strongly against,’ she wrote. ‘I’ve given speeches over it, wrote papers over it, and more’.
‘I detest racism. I was hoping I was going to be a part of a movement against racism. Ironically, I guess I am.’
The four women in the Instagram photo also apologized for causing ’emotional distress to many individuals’.
‘While it was never our intention to cause harm, we take full responsibility for the impact of this situation,’ they wrote in the statement.
‘We understand and regret that this reflects poorly on the reputation of Oklahoma State University. Our actions were thoughtless and harmful.’
Burgess wrote that she was deeply sorry for the posts but claimed her intentions were ‘not at all to be racist’. She also claimed that she had never ‘heard of blackface’ until the controversy
‘We also now see how easily social media can cause heartache and pain. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to our entire OSU family and beyond as well as genuinely as for your forgiveness.’
Hargis met briefly with the African-American Student Association before issuing an apology of his own on behalf of the school.
‘These students are understandably frustrated and concerned, and so am I,’ the statement began.
‘On behalf of the OSU family, I apologize for the hurt these incidents have caused.’
‘I want to be clear that intolerance or discrimination of any person or group is not acceptable on this campus or in our society.’
Hargis commended the students for their peaceful protest outside his office.
The four women in the Instagram photo also apologized for causing ’emotional distress to many individuals’
‘Their reaction should be an example of how the campus can move forward in addressing the matters of inclusion, diversity, and equality.’
Hargis wrote that his office was ‘working with the students’ involved in the Instagram and Snapchat posts to ‘help them understand the consequences of their inappropriate actions’.
The president did not mention any other disciplinary measures.
‘We all must learn from these incidents and bring positive change to our campus,’ he concluded in the statement.
‘We had meaningful dialogue today and we will continue to improve OSU’s efforts to be a more inclusive university.’
But for some, the statement and the counseling for the students involved wasn’t enough.
‘We definitely want change from them,’ Williams said.
‘More than an apology needs to be done. It’s offensive to us and the school.’