The Lambda Theta Delta Fraternity at the University of California, Irvine, has apologized after the release of a YouTube video featuring one of its members in blackface.
The video depicts members of Lambda Theta Delta, an Asian-American fraternity, performing to the Justin Timberlake Song, “Suit and Tie.” Members say it was designed to promote an upcoming fraternity event.
Halfway through the clip, one of the members, in an attempt to portray rapper Jay-Z, appears made up in blackface.
Blackface is a type of theatrical makeup popularized in American minstrel shows in which typically white performers painted their faces black to create a caricature of a black person. The shows commonly played on racial stereotypes and have long since disappeared from the scene.
“I feel personally offended at that act whether it was for ignorance, whether they just didn’t know about it, I feel like that’s not an excuse,” Ayana Baines, member of UC Irvine’s Black Student Union told ABC News affiliate KABC-TV.
Lambda Theta Delta President Darius Obana told KABC-TV the makeup was meant to distinguish one of the performers as Jay-Z. “In a nutshell it was pretty much just to play that role and be Jay-Z and kind of distinguish himself from the other guys in the video,” he said.
The fraternity removed the video and apologized after the uproar, issuing the following statement on its Facebook page.
“Lambda Theta Delta sincerely apologizes for the extremely racist content of the ‘Suit and Tie’ video. The use of black face in the video is incredibly offensive as well as insensitive. This behavior is simply unacceptable and the individuals responsible for the video have already been reprimanded.”
The statement explained that the members who produced the video were ignorant of the history of blackface in America, and that the video was removed when other fraternity members who were aware of its potentially offensive nature became apprised of its existence.
Some UC Irvine students, however, said that the fraternity members who originally posted the video knew it could be viewed as offensive because they had inserted a disclaimer into the video that said, “no racism intended.”
School administrators are investigating the incident to see whether disciplinary measures are warranted.
“Once that investigation is concluded, we will determine where the facts lie, what appropriate measures should be taken, and if discipline is called for,” UCI Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Thomas Parham told KABC-TV.
Obana says that fraternity members have been harassed in the wake of the video controversy, and said that it wasn’t a “very educated,” move to post the video online.