Blackface or charcoal mask? College investigates photo on social media

Blackface or charcoal mask? College investigates photo on social media

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia College is investigating after a social media post featuring three students with their faces painted black began to circulate on social media.

According to college spokeswoman Monique McDaniels, the post, which appears to be from SnapChat, shows the students with black paint on their faces and the caption "drink the [expletive] koolaid" underneath.

"You see three girls with black charcoal -- it's a charcoal face mask -- and it's mostly around their nose, and one of them has, like, half down and on their chin. It's like a blackface. It looks like a blackface," said Claire Kouns, a Columbia College student.

The college has also posted a statement on its Facebook page.

"In the past few hours, our campus community has been disrupted by the social media posting made by members of our community," the statement said. "These insensitive acts do not represent the legacy of our great College. Our mission of providing opportunities that develop student's capacity for critical thought and expression, lifelong learning, acceptance of personal responsibility, and our commitment to service and social justice rings true in the fabric of who we are as Columbia College."

"I see hate and hate for no reason. I see judgment and a racial slur, and we're tired of those. We're tired of the 'we always drink Koolaid,' we're tired of the 'we always eat fried chicken', or 'we're ratchet.' It's not okay," said Derreca Banks, a Columbia College student.

As a result of the picture, McDaniels said students have been invited to attend four scheduled meetings to discuss the photo and the steps forward.

McDaniels said the school doesn't traditionally disclose punishments against students, but says that an investigation is ongoing. The statement also pledge swift action against the students in question.

"All members of our community, including the students involved, will be held accountable for their individual actions," the statement said. "The College's leadership is taking swift and appropriate action. Those involved in the incident that took place via social media last night will proceed through the College's judiciary process and will not be on campus until this investigation is complete."

Some students held Black Lives Matter signs Thursday before the school hosted a couple of forums to talk about the picture.

"Even girls who were their friends. They spoke, and they even said that they don't agree. They feel like it was wrong. They don't know if they can be friends with the girls," Banks said.

Kouns agreed.

"What they did has divided the college more than ever. Like, I was just walking down the stairs last night to go get an Icee, and I got the rudest looks that I've ever gotten before just because I was white, and they weren't sure who was in the picture. All they knew is that it was white girls," Kouns said.

Meanwhile, students hope that punishment will be coming for the girls.

"I don't want people to think that's what represents Columbia College, because that's a small portion of who we really are," Banks said.

Students showed WIS a "public apology" on Facebook purportedly posted by one of the girl's in the picture, but we weren't able to verify the authenticity of that post for now.

WIS also attempted to text one of the girls believed to be in the photo for a comment, but was told by the college afterward that the person contacted doesn't wish to be contacted again.

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