From Blackface to Food Stamps, Is All Publicity Good Publicity? [Reader Forum]

Some people will do anything for attention. Colorlines readers respond to the latest race- and poverty-related stunts.

By Nia King Nov 26, 2012

Next time someone tells you America is post-racial, you may want to refer them to Jorge Rivas’ report about the two University of Minnesota students who donned blackface, recorded a racist rant, and uploaded it to YouTube last week. The two have since offered an apology claiming that they were doing facials with a brown facial mask when the rest "just happened." The university has condemned their actions, and reaffirmed their commitment to creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment, but the truth is, at a school where only 1.2 percent of the students are black, incidents like these are scarcely shocking.

On the topic of potentially regrettable stunts, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker plans to live off food stamps for one week. As Jorge Rivas reported, Booker’s decision came by way of a challenge after Twitter user "Twitwit" told him that "nutrition is not a responsibility of the government." Though Booker’s intentions are presumably to raise awareness about the difficulty of living on a $35-a-week food budget, Colorlines readers had mixed feelings about the message he’s sending. Here’s what you had to say:

Regarding the blackface incident:

Toro Castaño

Look at the numbers. That’s the real story. At my University we had less than 300 black students out of 12,000. Cultural competency is not exactly a priority for anyone.

Nicole Marroquin:

People only do this when they feel like they can get away with it. Whether they do or not, they felt like it was appropriate, which speaks volumes about that campus. Yeesh.

Sarah Lechowich:

Liberal arts programs have a long way to go in regards to teaching students to think critically about privilege (all of them) including but not limited to race, socioeconomic status, gender, family of origin, parental status, and so on. A teachable moment…for administrators, students and the community as a whole.

Kori Higgs

This literally turned my stomach. The blatant, unabashed ignorance and disrespect is sickening… but unfortunately not too surprising.

Starr Camara:

That’s what EVERY white person who fakes a "blaccent" sounds like to me! Yuck! Offensive and sad.

Erin Stojan-Ruccolo

You know about the huge controversy over the anti-racism campaign in Duluth, right? UMD just withdrew its support for the campaign in July. Obviously far too soon.

Ebony Murphy-Root:

College students? They must have gotten in with affirmative action.

Regarding Corey Booker’s food stamp stunt:

Matthew Cunningham-Cook:

Yo, we gotta stop this Cory Booker love. Need I remind everyone of his longtime association with the Charles Murray-employing Manhattan Institute?

Cedric Lawson:

Rep. Barbara Lee did this too.

Love Babz:

What would be impressive is if he adopted a family and lived off food stamps for a week. He’s a single guy. Yes it will be tough, but the reality is families are trying to survive on them.

Meghana Reddy:

Why do we need Cory Booker to go on food stamps to let us know that its difficult? People ON food stamps say it everyday — just LISTEN to them!

Risa Cantu C’DeBaca:

How is one week going to make him understand how to budget food stamps within a month? Ugh. Publicity stunt. There’s no way he’d use all of his food stamps in a week, so how would he understand what it means to budget?

Shawn Sinc:

Being from Newark, I’m not impressed with this nor am I or have ever been impressed with Cory Booker. In Newark the poor and poverty stricken are all around him so this little science experiment is counterproductive. These politicians know what poverty and being poor is because more often than not it’s a result of their very policies and lack there of.

Tim Hueydueylouie:

As much as constructive criticism is helpful, I don’t think that Booker is doing this for his own public image. He’s doing it for the publicity that the mainstream media might pick up so that audiences like the one "Twitwit, Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR), fighting against any and all forms of socialism/communism." seems to be a part of will take notice and maybe, just maybe stop and think about their own preconceived notions of what being on food stamps means.

Pamela Mays McDonald:

He is doing this to prove a point to the right-wing bigot who attacked folks on food stamps, not to learn about it himself or to get publicity for his own career.

Eva Polanco Ramirez:

3-6 months would be better along with minimum wage and no health insurance.

Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on, and on Facebook and Twitter.