University of Oklahoma Interim President Joe Harroz Jr. said Monday a photo of a student wearing a black facial treatment is clearly racist, even as the student himself maintained it is not.
“That is me, wearing a charcoal face mask, while I was at home with my girlfriend,” freshman Matt Robertiello told the OU Daily via Instagram. “I did not post the picture with any intention of ‘black face’ as (they’re) claiming I am. I feel as if I’m being framed as racist and I am not.”
Harroz was not having it.
“I will call it out for what that expression is — it is racist,” Harroz said in a statement posted on the university’s website.
Attempts to reach Robertiello directly were unsuccessful.
Several days ago, Robertiello posted to a private Instagram account a photo of himself wearing what’s known as a charcoal mask — a treatment that’s supposed to remove blackheads and improve overall skin health — with the caption “Another day, another case.”
Someone with access to the account sent the photo to OU’s Black Emergency Response Team, or BERT, a student organization formed earlier this year after two separate incidents involving blackface.
BERT made the photo public.
The organization’s leaders declined to be interviewed for this story. They have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon.
In January, two female students withdrew from school after a video that included blackface and racist language surfaced. A person in blackface walking around the Norman campus was reported a few days after the video became public.
In 2015, a fraternity was banned from campus for singing racist songs during a chapter party.
“Any member of the OU community who applies blackface is engaging in racism,” Harroz said in his statement.
“The impact it has on our community and all who strive for a diverse and inclusive community, is profound — it attacks our core values, it directly degrades African Americans, and it strikes at our very humanity. No one in our community can claim to be ignorant of the horrible history and meaning of blackface and its damaging effects.”
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