Pictures from a house party where two students are dressed in prisoner costumes with heavy fake tan and cornrows have sparked a fresh wave of accusations of a racist climate at the University.
The second year party, which was sponsored by ‘Reon Caffeine energy sachets’, an offshoot of Imperial Tobacco, took place on Friday. The theme was ‘teams, memes and 2016’ and the girls allegedly were dressed as characters from the TV show ‘Orange is the New Black’.
Nasra Ayub, outreach worker for Integrate UK, according to her Twitter biography, tweeted in response:
A week ago, Uni of Bristol rep dismissed claims of racism within the uni because the reports were minimal. Meanwhile the students.. pic.twitter.com/dakoFWpDR7
— nasra ayub (@nasra_ayub) 7 February 2017
Ayub went onto to describe the incident as ‘black face’, and wearing ‘blackness as a costume’. She described this as ‘real evidence’ of racism at the University in the light of recent stories, such as a particularly extreme incident where a black student was verbally abused by other members of Bristol University.
A representative for the University commented: ‘we have contacted the students concerned and asked them to meet with Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Chair of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group.’
The photo is publicly available on the Reon Caffeine Facebook page. One of the women asks the other ‘who wore it better?’.
One of the women pictured told Epigram: ‘I’ve been wanting to get my hair done in braids for a while now. I thought the ‘2016 ‘party theme I was invited to would be a great opportunity to get a friend of mine involved and dress up as convicts from one of the most successful and viewed TV Series of 2016: ‘Orange is the new black’.’
She continued: ‘A TV series known not for the dominance of a “race” over another, but for the mixed diversity and lesbian relationships that these convict women have. What is even more ironic is the fact that the only character wearing braids in the context of a CULTURALLY-MIXED prison is a white girl with blonde hair, Patricia Miller. I find it deeply offensive to be accused of being racist for my hairstyle, make-up and outfit.
‘Not only it shows deep lack of misunderstanding and obvious misinterpretation of what the TV series represents and aims to deliver, but also suggests that I, a 19 year old ‘white girl’, cannot get my hair braided as I wish.
‘The fact that I need to justify myself for what I want to look like or who I want to interpret at a fancy dress party, is in itself ridiculous. Wearing BB CRÈME, which is not to be confused with foundation is what I always wear on a night out: I wore the exact amount at the party as I do every other time I go out.
‘Yes, it was badly blended particularly towards the top of my forehead, yet I’m sure most of us ( myself included) wouldn’t even realize, as it seemed to have blended quite well with my beautiful ginger hair! Equally, even If I was trying to darken my skin-tone, am I not allowed to?
‘Does it really look like I’m trying to mock black skin? If that even was to be the case, then I must be a real failure! Furthermore, attempting to ‘orange myself’ would suggest that I’m trying to be more over the top, as you do at FANCY DRESS parties.
‘Once and for all, I will get braided if I want to and wear however much BB CRÈME OR FOUNDATION I wish, as it is by no means suggests racism but only concerns choices about my looks.’
A spokesperson for the Bristol SU told Epigram: ‘This is just one of a number of incidents to have come to light over the past few weeks: it needs to be recognised that racism is pervasive at Bristol, and at Universities across the country. We’ve seen extreme examples of racist abuse in the press recently, but racially insensitive comments, language and dress are all part of the same problem, and contribute to a culture that is sadly far too common on our campuses.
‘We urge our BME students to continue to talk to us about the racism they encounter, and work with us and the University to make necessary changes. All students have a responsibility to tackle racism on campus. We believe that open-mindedness, self-awareness and a will to learn and are key to this.’
Epigram will update the story as it unfolds.
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