February 20, 2004


A terrifying racial nightmare at Syracuse University may only have been something harmless, the university's newspaper reports:

An alleged blackface incident took place over the weekend, but those involved say it could all be a misunderstanding.

Just after midnight on Saturday morning, the Department of Public Safety received a report that a student was wandering around Watson Residence Hall with his face painted a dark color, according to a Public Safety report.

"We were unable to find him at first," said Marlene Hall, director of Public Safety. She said that DPS officers received a second report and were then able to located the student and speak to him.

The student told officers that the face paint was camouflage - not blackface - and that he was actually on his way to rob a house, Hall said.

"As far as we know, this was all a misunderstanding," Sheaffer said.

Even though the student claimed that he was going to attempt a burglary instead of dressing in blackface, DPS officers will continue to research both scenarios, Hall said.

(Via contributor J. F. Beck)

Posted by Tim Blair at February 20, 2004 12:26 AM

The fact that the kid would rather cop to breaking and entering than to being racialy insensitive shows exactly which one the school takes seriously.

Posted by: monkeyboy at February 20, 2004 at 12:58 AM

``The student is a new brother of Delta Tau Delta...''

I wonder if this is the newest form of fraternity hazing?

Posted by: Annalucia at February 20, 2004 at 01:02 AM

"We were unable to find him at first," said Marlene Hall, director of Public Safety.

Cunning eh? He blacks out his face before committing a burglary and he is difficult to find!

Imagine! I'll bet he never bargained for this unintended consequence of blacking his face.

Posted by: Tim Newman at February 20, 2004 at 01:06 AM

Not only does the student claim that he was only intending to commit a burglary, but the newspaper treats it as though that would be a lesser offence.

It says a lot when fear of being accused of racial insensitivity trumps copping to a felony.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at February 20, 2004 at 01:28 AM

I sure would feel a lot better if he had only been on his way to a murder instead.

Posted by: David at February 20, 2004 at 04:32 AM

What a pile of PANTS!!!! The moron said he was off to rob a house??

Posted by: koranistoiletpaper at February 20, 2004 at 06:29 AM

I'm assuming this means he was on a frat prank to take something from another frat house or something similar. Hard to tell from the article which is not particularly well written. It is a school paper and I think it rather likely they just assumed everyone would understand this.

Posted by: phwest at February 20, 2004 at 07:15 AM

Sounds like a win-win.

Posted by: Zach at February 20, 2004 at 07:23 AM

Department of Public Safety, eh?

Maybe Committee of Public Safety would be closer to the mark:

"The Committee of Public Safety formed the de facto executive government of France during the Reign of Terror (1793 - 1794) of the French Revolution. The Jacobins under Robespierre centralised denunciations, trials and executions under the supervision of this committee of twelve members".

Posted by: The Mongrel at February 20, 2004 at 08:36 AM

The unspoken message here:

Robbery is just fine, as long as you don't inadvertently offend anyone while you're doing it.

Posted by: david at February 20, 2004 at 09:25 AM

Maybe he was going to a Friar's Club event with Ted Danson. It could be that innocent.

Posted by: Andrew at February 20, 2004 at 09:52 AM

Obviously his personal camoflage (I think there is a u in there somewhere) and concealment wasn't up to scratch, nor were his escape and evasion skills. Throw the fucking book at him.

Posted by: Razor at February 20, 2004 at 10:49 AM

A Muslim gentleman was recently convicted of a "hate crime" in Syracuse for torching a synagogue. His defense was, I kid you not,
that he was "merely robbing" it and started the fire to cover his tracks. The judge didn't buy it. Maybe this kid thought he'd do better.

phwest wrote: "Hard to tell from the article which is not particularly well written. It is a school paper and I think it rather likely they just assumed everyone would understand this."

Well, here's the punchline to that: Syracuse University is home to the Newhouse School of Communications, one of America's top programs for media. The school boasts many famous alumni who got their start in Syracuse and local smaller markets. So if you think that American broadcasters are mostly shite, you can blame the 'Cuse! (And yes, I do find a lot of them piss poor considering what they pay and what they're supposed to get out of it.)

Posted by: JDB at February 20, 2004 at 11:03 AM

Sounds like he was a member of the Minstrel Underground to me- on his way to terrify victims with an incredibly hammy version of Swannee

Posted by: Habib at February 20, 2004 at 11:14 AM

My husband is a grad student at Syracuse University. You can read his response to this incident here. Every year someone experiences some "incident" that just goes to prove that those smiling white people are really evil racist constantly plotting ways to make all of the non-white people feel inferior.

Posted by: Samantha at February 20, 2004 at 11:41 AM

More on the Minstrel Underground, like El Que'da, but with ragtime.

Posted by: Habib at February 20, 2004 at 12:30 PM

This reminds me of that C. Thomas Howell classic, "Soul Man".

Posted by: Yobbo at February 20, 2004 at 01:27 PM

The student stated that he was in blackface because he was intending to commit a burglary.

But wait a minute! Isnt that RACIST?

Surely, pretending to be black while committing a crime is a form of racism? Like saying, 'This is a black thing I'm doing here ..'

In fact, this student is guilty of double-racism and should be taken out and executed at high noon in front of cheering crowds.

Posted by: dee at February 20, 2004 at 05:50 PM

The detailed report on this I saw at a Syracuse grad student's blog indicated that it was, indeed, a sorority prank, in response to a similar raid, and that the darkening of exposed skin was indeed for concealment.

Posted by: triticale at February 20, 2004 at 11:47 PM

So it's "just a fraternity prank". Of course, if some other group of young men got together and sent one of their members out to commit a burglary, this would be a "conspiracy", a felony for all involved. But because these young men are mostly the children of the rich, it's all right, as long as it's clear that the face camo wasn't intended to offend anyone...

Posted by: markm at February 22, 2004 at 03:25 PM