Al Jolson Minstrel Image

History Repeats Itself in Blackface in Whitewater, Wisconsin

I. from The Janesville Gazette, Feb. 1-3, 1963:

Whitewater State College (UW-Whitewater) finds itself in the middle of a controversy involving the NAACP and Whitewater Junior Chamber of Commerce. The NAACP protests the Jaycees' plans to stage a minstrel show with white men in black face at the college. The NAACP asks the Jaycees that "the show be given without any dark makeup, that dialect be omitted and that any references or inferences to the Negro race be cut. ... 'The NAACP is definitely opposed to this type of entertainment since it depicts the American Negro as a clowning person with an attached stereotype,'" the Chicago field director of the organization says. The Jaycees maintain they don't have time to change the show, scheduled for the next two days.

College President Walker Wyman says: "Personally I have a low regard for the minstrel-type dramatics but have no interest in censoring the type of show the community wants to see." He invites the NAACP to use the college auditorium to present its case against minstrel shows. Nine pickets from the NAACP, two of them white, protest the Saturday night show, which fills 400 of the auditorium's 900 seats. None picket the Sunday show, which draws only 200.


II. from The Janesville Gazette, Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Fraternity Skit Splits UW-Whitewater Campus

blackface student at UW Whitewater By Carla McCann/Gazette Staff

WHITEWATER--Matthew Schram is sorry that he appeared in a UW-Whitewater skit in blackface. I'd like to apologize," the junior said. "I'm sorry for my ignorant actions. I am not a racist. I was brought up to love my neighbor." But few students who attended a campus forum on diversity Monday were ready to accept his apology. Black students are angry with Schram for disrespecting them. And they're upset with his Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers and the administration for allowing the performance during a campus variety show.

"We should have prevented it," Chancellor Jack Miller said. "We can do a better job in watching acts on and off stage." The forum, which attracted more than 100 students of all races and cultures, was scheduled after about 50 students and professors protested the blackface performance last week. Schram's parents, Mike and Kristine, drove to Whitewater from their Shawano home to offer their son support at the forum. Mike, a Lutheran pastor, said his son has many black friends and never would intentionally do anything to offend them. "There were two black students in the variety show, and if they had thought it was a racist presentation, they would have objected," Mike said.

They did object, said Davie Williams, a senior. "How many people advised you not to take the stage?" Williams asked Schram. "You could have stood down. You disrespected us." Schram said he had spent a day writing the skit, which was a spoof on old Nike commercials that portrayed NBA star Charles Barkley's ap pearance when he said, "I am not a role model." And he had little time to consider the request before it was time to take the stage, Schram said.

Tim Lagerman, another UW-Whitewater senior, said blame for the incident partly lies with the educators for failing to teach diversity. "Blackfaced has been a well-known racist act for almost 200 years and is inexcusable, whether or not there was intent," Lagerman said.

And he wasn't alone in his accusation that the university is failing in its job of teaching cultural diversity. In many ways, Schram's skit opened doors to unite minority students in their quest for new curriculum that teaches diversity and more than just Euro-American heritage.

"There's not enough multicultural programs," said Louis Smith, another senior. "There's not enough professors who know how to interact with students of color."


III. from The Janesville Gazette (online), Nov. 13, 2001

UW-W Places Additional Sanctions on Fraternity After Variety Show

(Published Tuesday, November 13, 2001 8:20:05 AM CST; updated Tuesday, November 13, 2001 11:52:32 AM CST)

By Carla McCann/Gazette Staff

WHITEWATER--The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at UW-Whitewater has agreed to a new set of sanctions related to a fall homecoming skit in which a student appeared on stage wearing blackface.

If the sanctions are not met, the student organization faces suspension, said Brian Mattmiller of the school's Office of News and Public Affairs.

TKE President Brian Wallace and Assistant Dean of Students Mary Beth Mackin signed the agreement Monday. Mackin proposed the sanctions in response to a formal complaint filed under the university's student organization conduct process.

The student was part of a homecoming skit based on Nike's "I am not a role model" ad campaign which featured former NBA star Charles Barkley. About 50 students and professors protested the blackface performance.

Sanctions in response to the skit include:

--TKE will be on probation at the university through Oct. 11, 2002, with a provision that the fraternity will be suspended if sanctions are not met or if additional violations occur during that time.

A suspension would ban the organization from any formal activities or receiving funding support ed by student fees.

--The fraternity will have to raise a minimum of $3,000 to sponsor a major speaker on campus in spring 2002 related to issues of diversity or multiculturalism. It also must work directly with the university's multicultural education center in identifying the speaker, who must sign a contract no later than January 2002.

--TKE must conduct a program for its members that discusses the history and racial implications of blackface in the United States. That program must be presented by Dec. 7.

The sanctions follow steps already taken by the Homecoming Steering Committee, which disqualified TKE from the homecoming variety show on the day of the incident. The committee barred the fraternity from participating in future homecoming activities unless it writes an apology to the Black Student Union, participates in a diversity training program, hosts a diversity-related event on campus and has its actions formally reviewed by TKE's national office and the UW-Whitewater Greek Standards process.

In addition, TKE will have to submit a letter to student life officials that details how and when it will comply with the original sanc tions.

The fraternity has met one sanction by writing a formal apology to the black students' group and mailing copies to all 120 student organizations on campus.

Mackin, the dean, said that by signing the latest sanctions agreement, the fraternity waived its right to a hearing before a student committee.

"There was an acknowledgment from the fraternity leaders that they caused a lot of pain to the campus community and they needed to do something to make up for it," Mackin said.

About 250 students attended an open forum Nov. 5 that was led by Chancellor Jack Miller to discuss the incident and other issues related to diversity on campus. Miller vowed to address a proposal by the black students' group to enhance diversity hiring and programs on campus.

Another all-campus forum is planned from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Hamilton Center in the University Center.


Read more about blackface in Whitewater, student responses, etc.

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