Durham Student Union Votes To Campaign Against 'Blacking Up'

Edinburgh University sudents 'blacking up' on a pub crawl
Edinburgh University sudents 'blacking up' on a pub crawl
The Student

A student union has voted to campaign for students to actively stop "blacking up" in fancy dress parties and at other university events.

Following harsh criticism of this practice at other universities, where students had used black and brown make-up to alter skin tone, the representatives of Durham Student Union voted unanimously to campaign to end this trend - apart from one abstention.

Eleri Watson, a student at Durham University told The Guardian, "'Bad taste' or 'politically incorrect' parties are in vogue at the moment.

"At one party we heard about, white people blacked up to pretend to be slaves. There have also been people dressed as Nazis, the twin towers and Jimmy Savile. It's common to see costumes like that. It's branded as banter or as ironic."

This motion can be seen as a direct response to wider reports, and controversy, surrounding 'blackface' costumes.

One student who had 'blacked up' was awarded a prize in a costume competition by the University of London Union (ULU).

A London Metropolitan undergraduate, part of the ULU, told HuffPostUK:

"At most student unions a racist costume like this one would get you rightly kicked out, at the far-left ULU it gets you an award and a bottle of alcohol. They should be ashamed."

In a similar incident, York University students faced an onslaught of abuse after dressing up, and painting themselves black, in order to look like the characters in Cool Runnings.

The campaign has also been extended to fashion shows, one Durham show with a tribal theme was used as an example in discussions, accompanied also by their 2013 theme which was Bollywood.

Both shows were criticised. The first, for using dark cosmetics in an attempt to imitate the Indian complexion, the second, for neglecting to represent the diversity of Africa respectfully.

According to The Tab, the motion said: “It is unacceptable that blackface or brownface (any kind of ethnic skin imitation) is being allowed to take place, with both students and college staff unaware of its racism.

“College events with any type of racial or ethnic theme are often racist, and again perpetuate stereotypes of the regions they attempt to represent.

“The union will work with the university to campaign against students blackening up.

“The union should encourage event organisers to consult students who might be affected by events of a racial or ethnic nature, which may then act as a learning and teaching process between students of different backgrounds.”

Aaron Kiely, NUS' Black Students' Officer, told The Huffington Post UK: ​"I welcome the positive steps taken by Durham Students' Union to challenge the deeply offensive practice of 'Blacking up' by passing this motion.

"Blacking up fuels racist stereotypes about Black people and has no place on our diverse and multicultural campuses. There should be zero tolerance to it."

Now that the motion has been passed, it will be passed to the university for consideration.