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UCI fraternity video stirs controversy with 'blackface' makeup

April 25, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
An online video has stirred up a controversy at University of California-Irvine. Some students are angry after a fraternity posted a video with a member in "blackface." The fraternity took the video down within days and has apologized. But the video can still be found on the Internet. It's been viewed on YouTube at least 10,000 times.

The video shows members of Lambda Theta Delta performing the Justin Timberlake song "Suit and Tie." One of the fraternity members appears with black makeup simulating African-American skin.

"In a nutshell it was pretty much just to play that role and be Jay-Z and kind of distinguish themself from the other guys in the video," said Lambda Theta Delta President Darius Obana. Lambda Theta Delta is an Asian-American fraternity.

Obana says the video was made as a promotion for an upcoming event. But the attention its 55 members had hoped to generate instead has created a firestorm of criticism.

"I think offensive, but I also don't think they knew what they were getting into," said UCI student Korina Patel.

"I feel personally offended at that act, whether it was for ignorance, whether they just didn't know about it, I felt like that's not an excuse," said Ayana Baines, a member of the UCI Black Student Union.

The fraternity took the music video down and issued an apology, calling the video "extremely racist" and "incredibly offensive."

But some students say the fraternity knew what it was doing and even put a disclaimer in the video saying it wasn't being racist.

"Nobody should have a disclaimer about a video they make. Everybody knows that the Internet is sharable and viewable," said UCI student Allura Davis.

Student organizations on the UCI campus are also calling for university administrators to take action.

"The response that UCI is giving just shows sort of a lack of concern for the students that feel that they are hurt by this video by not reacting and taking action," said Mackala Lacy, co-chair of the Black Student Union.

UCI Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Thomas Parham says the university is taking the incident very seriously and is investigating.

"Once that investigation is concluded, we'll determine where the facts lie, what appropriate measures should be taken, and if discipline is called for," said Parham.

Darius Obana understands why people are angry.

"I believe they have all the right in the world to be angry at us," said Obana. "It's not proper. It wasn't a very educated move to post that online."

Obana says his fraternity has been harassed on campus and has received threats online since the incident. The university is aware of those threats and is investigating.


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