We spoke to the student who sent the Kansas State blackface photos viral
‘People needed to see what happens behind closed doors’
When you woke up Thursday morning you may have noticed your social media accounts bombarded with a rather alarming Snapchat picture.
Kansas State University student, Desmund Weathers, posted a photo on Twitter of two female college students, Paige Shoemaker and Sadie Meier, sporting what appeared to be blackface. They were actually wearing face masks.
Their photo was captioned: “Feels good to finally be a nigga.”
Welcome to Kansas State University. Where breakfast in the morning is some K-State Family with a side of Racism. pic.twitter.com/Vmdkl5g27g
— Des. (@JustDesmund) September 15, 2016
Desmund, who is a senior at K-State studying Software Engineering, also posted a screenshot of Shoemaker’s Facebook profile and accompanied the post with, “Welcome to Kansas State University. Where breakfast in the morning is some K-State Family with a side of Racism.”
According to a series of text messages between Paige and Fusion, the picture was posted to her Snapchat story so it could be seen by all of her followers.
The girls were wearing L’Oreal clay facial masks in the photo.
Paige defended herself saying: “It was sent in a joking manner to our friends. I am the least racist and most accepting person you will meet. Never would I send it in a derogatory way.”
Since the publication of the Snapchat photos, Paige and Sadie have posted an apology on both Paige’s Facebook and Instagram profiles.
KSU has also released a statement that neither of the girls are associated with the University any longer. The Kansas State Vice President of Student Life, Pat Bosco, also released a statement regarding the girls’ actions.
“There is no place of racism at our University, regardless of what the intentions may have been. K-State prides itself on being one family, no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or abilities,” he said.
We talked to Desmund, who tweeted the picture that went viral.
What was your original reaction to seeing Paige’s Snapchat picture?
I just couldn’t comprehend how someone could take a picture like that and not only think it was a joke, but think that people wouldn’t say anything about it… Things like this happen all the time, but at that moment I knew that people needed to see what happens ‘behind closed doors’ sometimes and that things like this are closer than some might expect or believe.
Why did you choose to post the picture and Paige’s profile information on Twitter versus going straight to the university or trying to contact Paige privately?
I’ve been a news outlet for social justice issues on Twitter for quite a while now – Twitter is usually how I react first. I also know that the University would get the news of the issues and take care of it.
Did you expect the post to blow up like it did?
I can’t say I didn’t expect it to blow up a little. I knew once people [saw] this that it would go really crazy and that it would be big on a university scale. What I didn’t expect was how much national attention it received – USA Today, CNN, etc.
Do you think that the media backlash and attention that the girls have been getting has been fair?
I do believe that the media attention that this is receiving is fair… I can’t say that everyone has responded correctly nor respectfully, but incidents like [this] spark conversations that need to be had in households, around friends, and in the school environment… Part of me feels that, in a way, she got the easy was out.
Now that she’s been shown in a light that shows her as – not what I would call a racist – but someone who still has racist tendencies, she gets to just up and walk away from the several looks of shame that she might have received. Sometimes in situations like this it’s better for them to pay the price for indecency just by experience.
But also I think that it would have been good to sit down with them and have an [actual] talk about why what they did was wrong.
Other University of Kansas (KU) students have been reacting to the situation as well and have had a wide variety of opinions on the topic.
Kelsey Willits, Junior, Journalism
“I think it’s really important and interesting how the internet allows us to facilitate conversation and criticisms about other people’s actions, especially [Paige and Sadie’s.] But, I also think that it’s equally as important to use these platforms to inform her as to why her actions were wrong. You can call a person out and say that they are racist and most of the time they will apologize and correct their actions without ever understanding why it was wrong in the first place.’’
Liam Elward, 20, Paleontology
“It is important in these situations to vilify the actions, not necessarily the person themselves. Everybody makes mistakes and I understand this one mistake may be incredibly damaging to a young girl’s future, but in this era of transparency not only do you have to be more careful in what you post online – we have a responsibility to root out and bring to light any forms of racism or bigotry that we see. What she did was wildly inappropriate and shows just how nonchalant and commonplace everyday racism is within our society.”
Miranda Ganter, 20, History
“When people feel like they are in a safe space with friends and family that don’t have the identities that they’re making fun of, they don’t understand what they’re saying. That’s what privilege is. Not having to face reality.”
Johnathan Manney, 20, Biochemical Engineering
“To see that, so often, blackness is relegated to a cheap commodity is distressing. Events like these have been ubiquitous since the days of Al Jolson, and it’s still just as dehumanizing. Her actions were founded in ignorance, and I can only assume she was just trying to make others laugh. I’m sure there were plenty that did. I’m just glad that someone was willing to come forward and object to such flippant racism. However, I don’t think this will do anything to change public perception of Blackface. Ultimately, I’m sure we’ll see another story just like this within a few months. I just hope that stories like this inspire people to take the time to educate themselves as to why Blackface is so offensive.”
Whether you see them as racists or just two girls that made a mistake, there is no question that this incident is just one example of the progress that needs to be made in our country in regards to race.
This viral post opened up a conversation that desperately needs to be had and – though it wasn’t pretty – I like to think we’re all taking one step closer to understanding the importance of respecting and celebrating the diversity that makes the United States the wonderful melting pot that it is.