North Dakota State University officials are looking into another incident on campus in which a student impersonated someone of a different race.
A nonwhite student master of ceremonies for the International Student Association talent show on Friday night wore white makeup on his face while portraying Michael Jackson, a Black entertainer known for his light skin color.
The incident came in the wake of a March 18 skit on campus in which a White student in blackface portrayed presidential candidate Barack Obama receiving a lap dance. That skit received national attention and prompted University President Joe Chapman to issue a statement condemning it.
Chapman was in the audience for the talent show. He issued a statement in response to the incident, saying it “demonstrates the complexities surrounding the social construct of race.”
“We continue to be reminded about the need to carefully consider our actions as they relate to others regardless of the event, timing or circumstances,” he said.
Dean of students Janna Stoskopf said she had not received a formal complaint about the performance. She said university officials still would look into the incident and the motivation behind it to determine if any discipline was warranted.
Fatah Hassani, president of the International Student Association, said the Jackson impersonation was not in response to the blackface incident.
“The student did not seek to target any White person through his personification,” Hassani said in a statement.
Prakash Mathew, vice president for student affairs, who also was in the audience, said using White makeup might have lacked sensitivity considering the other incident had just happened.
“Otherwise, he did a very nice job of portraying Michael Jackson,” Mathew said. “The moon dance, the whole thing, I thought was very well done.”
Mathew said NDSU’s diversity officer has talked with the International Programs Office.
“This reaffirms the fact that diversity training is needed for all people from all backgrounds,” he said.
Student body President Josh Reimnitz said he did not think Friday’s incident would have been an issue “had it happened at a different time.”
NDSU received a formal complaint following the March 18 blackface incident, in which the Obama impersonator received a lap dance while two students simulated a sex act in the background.
The sorority that sponsored the event, Alpha Gamma Delta, and the group that did the lip-sync act, the Saddle and Sirloin Club, have publicly apologized.
Some NDSU students plan to gather on Thursday for a rally to support diversity and speak out against intolerance. Chris Ziniel, a student organizer, said the rally plans were not prompted by any single incident.
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