NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The new interim president at the University of Oklahoma is condemning the use of blackface after a student’s social media post showed a white man with a black substance painted on his face.
OU President Joe Harroz said in a statement late Sunday that while wearing blackface is racist, free speech protections likely prohibit him from removing the student from campus.
The university newspaper OU Daily reported that the student said he was wearing a charcoal face mask and had no racist intent.
A group of black student leaders notified OU administrators about the post Sunday.
KFOR reached out to OU on Sunday and Harroz sent them the following statement:
“Any member of the OU community who applies blackface is engaging in racism. While the First Amendment may protect their speech such that they cannot be legally removed from our University, I too have a voice. And I will call it out for what that expression is – it is racist. The impact it has on our community and all who strive for a diverse and inclusive community, is profound – it attacks our core values, it directly degrades African Americans, and it strikes at our very humanity. No one in our community can claim to be ignorant of the horrible history and meaning of blackface and its damaging effects.
Upon assuming my role four months ago, I have stated at every opportunity that diversity and inclusion is our institution’s number one priority. We are profoundly clear that OU is a place where racism is not welcome; where love and tolerance define us; and where we strive, and will help society, to be better. We are making important progress to be a leader among universities in diversity and inclusion, and this incident does nothing but further our resolve.”