The University of Southern Mississippi confirmed on Monday that six students dressed in blackface to depict “The Cosby Show’s” Huxtable family at a 1980s-themed, off-campus costume party last week. The USM Dean of Students Office described the students as six women who were all members of the Phi Mu sorority.
“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,” said Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway, according to local news station WAPT.
“The women involved have been open, cooperative and contrite. We will use this as a teachable moment and motivation for dialogue on appropriate sensitivity and respect around issues of diversity,” Holloway said.
The national sorority has also issued a statement condemning the actions.
“The conduct of these members in no way reflects the values and standards of Phi Mu Fraternity,” Phi Mu National President Kris Bridges said. “Our chapters are expected to abide by our policies and uphold a values-based culture. I am deeply disappointed by the actions of these members in their choice of costume for the social event.”
The six students have been placed on probation by the national sorority and chapter sanctions will include multiple diversity and cultural competency educational requirements, WAPT reports.
Perhaps the six students should take a look at the “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” campaign that a small group of Ohio University students launched in October to remind people of blackface’s awful, racist history.