CU Employee Blackface Photo Causes Facebook Firestorm
A Facebook firestorm erupted Wednesday after a photo appeared on the social media site of four Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union employees who came to work on Halloween dressed in Olympic uniforms and blackface.
Chris Loseth, president/CEO of the $973 million P1FCU in Lewiston, Idaho said in statement that the picture was meant to be a representation of the first Jamaican national bobsled team who gained fame in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and whose heroics were made famous in the 1993 movie “Cool Runnings.”
“An incident of cultural insensitivity occurred yesterday during Halloween that resulted in the posting of a picture to a personal Facebook page,” Loseth wrote on the credit union’s Facebook page Wednesday. “The four female employees are shocked and saddened by the results of their depiction of this famous group of Jamaican athletes and meant no harm or disrespect to anyone. P1FCU did not post this picture on our Facebook page and offers our apologies to those who were offended by the actions of these employees. The employees involved have been reprimanded. The need for cultural sensitivity among all Americans is well recognized and we will be reinforcing cultural diversity training with our entire staff.”
As of 12 noon, Eastern Time on Thursday, the blackface photo and Loseth’s statement received more than 400 comments and nearly 70 shares.
While some people accepted the credit union’s statement and apology, others didn’t and criticized Loseth for not calling the incident racist and wrong.
“This isn't an apology, no where did you say ‘this is wrong!’ or ‘we acknowledge this is racist & harmful!’” Dana Young wrote. “But don't worry you made sure to let us know how ‘shocked & saddened’ your employees are & that they ‘meant no harm.’ Congrats on contributing to the spreading of white supremacy that inflicts our society.”
But in an interview with CU Times Loseth acknowledged the incident was wrong and regrettable.
“We take responsibility for the situation and we apologize to the public that this went on,” he said. “It’s an issue of lack of social awareness and cultural insensitivity of a group of folks (employees) and us who did not grasp at the time the seriousness of the lack of judgement, because of the lack of overall cultural diversity training. We want to learn from this mistake and move forward with a better awareness of the issue.”
He also noted that the employees involved were working in a back office and not in a member-facing environment.
Christy Skinner saw the credit union’s apology as sincere.
“Oh my Gosh...everyone needs to look within and see what they are for or against and learn to accept (an) apology where given and move on,” she wrote. “I didn't see the ‘racial’ content of it but I guess some did so there was an apology and it should have stopped the talk there.”
Others, however, argued the incident should never have occurred because everyone knows that black face is offensive and racist.
“It is common knowledge that black face is racist and was created for racist purposes,” wrote Aurora Pierzchanowski. “They could've easily done this costume without using black face. And to those of you saying "get over it," no. We should not be tolerant of racism in our community!”
Aliya Khabir wrote that she hopes the credit union’s diversity and sensitivity training includes the real history of where black face came from and why it is so clearly offensive and hurtful to African Americans.
“Black face --- white people painting their face brown or black for impersonation or entertainment purposes ---- is NEVER appropriate in Halloween nor any of the other 364 days of the year,” Khabir wrote. “Culture and race are not costumes.”
But Charlie Spencer believes these employees weren't being racial.
“Every person that misunderstood their connotation MADE this racial!” he wrote.
Sara Tacke questioned why the term racist is so easily thrown around?
“I'm sure these employees had no hate in their hearts. They were simply dressing up for Halloween and didn't think that something so small could be so offensive,” she wrote. “How do you think they feel? An innocent day of dress up to cause such craziness and uproar. And then (to) be name-called and told they're racist. We all need to have more love, acceptance and tolerance in our hearts. Tolerance of EVERYONE.”