Blackness is not a costume

Topic Selected: Racism

General Article icon Type: General Article

The President of the University of Birmingham Christian Union, Ben McNeely, was recently caught ‘blacking up’ to fit a ‘Caribbean’ theme for a fancy dress party. BEMA, the Birmingham Ethnic Minorities Association, found the photograph posted on Facebook (it was later deleted by McNeely) and fortunately succeeded in convincing him of the severity of the situation.

McNeely has made a public apology, and will be resigning as President of the Christian Union. He says that he had no ‘intention to offend’ and ‘was genuinely unaware of the history attached to this issue.’

As many black people could tell him, intent is not magic. If I ‘accidentally’ punch someone in the face, and then say I didn’t mean to break their nose, that doesn’t heal them. Similarly, if you treat a skin colour like an accessory, saying you didn’t mean to do any harm does not atone for the damage you have done. Thankfully, he

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