Roughly 60 miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where racial tensions have been high in the wake of black teenager Michael Brown’s death, a dozen high school seniors, all white females, decided to wear blackface during a Powder-Puff football game earlier this month. The incident initially flew under the radar as the game was played on November 5th. While the school posted pictures of the games played that night on the school’s Twitter account, the pictures were intentionally taken from a distance so as not to show the girls up close.
Powder Puff games at The Nest. pic.twitter.com/MzIwmXBzFF
— Sullivan Eagles (@sullivaneagles) November 6, 2014
However, due to pictures of the girls in blackface being posted to Facebook, the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis area newspaper, ran a story about the incident Wednesday. The RFT asked school principal Jennifer Schmidt her thoughts on the situation. Apparently, Schmidt knew it was probably a bad idea but thought the girls obviously didn’t mean any harm by the act.
Below is from the RFT article:
“And then I thought, ‘Oh, they don’t mean anything by it. Just let it go. No one thinks anything of it.’ I didn’t think anyone did,” says Schmidt, the principal of Sullivan High School. “Evidently, someone did.”
Evidently indeed. Photos taken during the game show twelve members of the senior class wearing dour expressions beneath full-blown blackface, and someone at the game shared those photos on Facebook. The reactions to the photos have been rippling within the small town of Sullivan (60 miles southwest of St. Louis) ever since.
You think somebody might take offense to these images, Ms. Schmidt?
Schmidt claims that there was nothing racial in the girls makeup choice for the game. She states that seniors, who face off against underclass girls in these games, have always worn face paint in order to mimic male football players’ use of eye black. Typically, they’ve centered their face paint on the school’s colors — black and gold. Apparently, per Schmidt, none of the girls brought any gold makeup or paint and they only had black. Therefore, they just overdid it and painted their whole faces black in order to “intimidate the underclassmen.” Schmidt also said that the school will probably ban face paint moving forward and the girls will not be disciplined.
Seriously? This is the excuse she’s trying to dish out on behalf of these girls? Personally, I find that a bit far-fetched. Sure, maybe the students are lacking a certain amount of historical context regarding blackface and why it is inherently racist. However, considering the amount of racial unrest and tension happening within semi-close proximity of Sullivan (a nearly all-white community), it is hard to believe that this was all just a post-racial mixup.
ETA: It appears the Sullivan Eagles Twitter account deleted the tweets with pictures from the football game after this article was published.