OKLAHOMA — University of Oklahoma students involved in a video showing a woman in blackface and possibly using a racial slur “will not return to campus,” the university’s president said in a statement.
“This video signals to me that we have much more to do to create an environment of equity and respect,” University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly said. “We must be purposeful to create authentic measures to address and abolish racist experiences for our students, faculty and staff.”
The video posted to social media this week initially shows a white female student applying black paint to her face while making faces to the camera.
“Stop (inaudible) you have too much…. That’s paint, not (face paint),” another female student who appears to be recording the video is heard saying.
The student in blackface then holds up her painted palms and says something that some have interpreted to be a racial slur, although it is unclear what she says.
As that happens, the other student is seen embracing her and laughing while recording both of them.
In response to the video, Gallogly said he spent “considerable time with multicultural leaders, leaders from our student government association, student athletes and others who were personally and emotionally impacted by the very demeaning video and other events that occur because of their identity.”
“In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I ask you to hold his ideals high as we work toward a new more inclusive and caring future for our University,” he said.
One of the students involved in the video was also expelled from her sorority at the University of Oklahoma, but it’s unclear which one of the two.
“The behavior documented in the video is abhorrent and is in no way consistent with Tri Delta’s ideals. To those students directly impacted by this senseless act of racism, we are deeply sorry, and we know that is not enough,” London Moore, president of the OU chapter of Delta Delta Delta sorority — also known as Tri Delta — said Saturday.
Moore described the student only as “the woman who participated in, filmed and posted the video.”
Students offered to apologize, school says
In a letter to the university’s community, Gallogly previously condemned the students’ behavior and described the video as “inappropriate and derogatory.”
“We are saddened and offended that even on the eve of such an important holiday (Martin Luther King Day) for our nation we are reminded how far we have yet to come in the conversation about treating everyone with respect and dignity,” Gallogly wrote.
He also noted the two students have offered to apologize, but it’s unclear whether they will face any disciplinary actions.
The students have not been publicly identified.
Prior to the student’s dismissal, Moore had said the group deeply regrets the “insensitive and offensive actions” of one of its members and promised to hold the student accountable.
The president of the university’s student government association joined those condemning the video, urging students to report similar behavior and calling school officials to take action.
“Further, it is my hope that appropriate steps are taken by the University and any affiliated organizations to ensure that these two students know their words and actions are hurtful, degrading, and hateful towards the entire OU community, especially the black community,” Adran Gibbs Jr. said in a statement.
Gibbs Jr. went on to call the students involved to apologize to the black community.
Black student group wants zero-tolerance policy
The University of Oklahoma Black Student Association said they were not surprised by the actions of the two students in the video.
“There is a violent and painful history concerning the usage of blackface and reducing black people to racist caricatures. It is unfortunate for us to be in 2019 and this is still happening,” the student group said in a statement.
The student group is now demanding the university add a zero-tolerance policy to hate speech, increase the number of multicultural faculty and staff members and increase funding to African-American programs.
When asked about the video, several students said they were hurt, angry and even confused after seeing it.
“I could never imagine being so insensitive especially in a time when it’s obviously not okay,” Sofia Olivas, a sophomore at OU, told CNN affiliate KFOR. “You’re an adult, you know right from wrong.”
Another student, Taylor Stephenson, acknowledged the students have freedom of speech rights but said “it’s also hate speech and that’s not what we promote here at the University of Oklahoma.”
This not the first time one of the university’s sororities or fraternities has come under fire. In 2015, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house was shut down and two students expelled after a video surfaced showing members of the fraternity singing a racist chant.