Six students at the University of Southern Mississippi have come under fire for wearing blackface to a theme party, earning them probation from their sorority and attention from the local media.
The students were attending a party with an 80's theme, and were dressed as the characters from the classic sitcom The Cosby Show. All six women were part of the Phi Mu sorority, according to the Hattiesburg American. As a result of the controversy, the local chapter of the sorority will host a diversity appreciation event, according to The AP.
The school will not discipline the students, according to the Sun Herald (Biloxi-Gulfport and south Mississippi). The dean of students, though, did comment on the actions.
Though it is clear that these women had no ill intent, it was also clear that they had little cultural awareness or competency, and did not understand the historical implication of costuming in blackface, Dean of Students Eddie Holloway said in statement, according to the Sun Herald.
Blackface is commonly associated with racist minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th century. When used for modern costume parties, it has frequently prompted controversy and outrage. In recent years, controversies have popped up at schools including the University of Montreal, Northwestern University, Bethel College and Clemson University.