Cowboys and Obama

Bruised sentiments about North Dakota State University blackface skit will linger.

Sen. Barack Obama has seen his fair share of news coverage over the last months, but this week he’s had some competition for headlines. News outlets across the nation are picking up the story of a skit at an North Dakota State University function in which a white student in blackface and an afro wig portrayed Obama receiving a lap dance. The skit was part of Mr.NDSU, a charity event sponsored by a university sorority.

The same skit, performed in front of 500 people by the university’s Saddle and Sirloin club, also featured two cowboys simulating sex while holding an Obama sign, which was ripped up at the scene’s conclusion, The Associated Press reported.

This story is unfortunately reminiscent of recent racially charged events at St. Thomas that involved racist notes aimed at three black women, and at Hamline, where six football players went to a party in blackface. It also follows another NDSU sorority event in which students mocked American Indian clothing.

As Sen. Obama alluded to during a recent speech, racism in this country is still far from being part of history. People of color still fight the institutional racism that kept them or their parents from going to college, getting jobs and securing housing just 30 years ago. And blackface was part of this demeaning history, used to portray crude characterizations of Black people during slavery and segregation.

The NDSU clubs face punishment from the university, and claim they weren’t making a political statement, nor were their intentions malicious. This may be so, but university clubs and organizations provide leadership and reflect on their campus.

For a university with little diversity (NDSU is 92 percent white, 1.5 percent black) a discussion on why we should all be offended by the mock blacks, American Indians and gay men may be necessary

Although this embarrassing moment for NDSU will soon fade from the headlines, lewd actions like these create a hostile environment for students and faculty that will linger longer.