Student Dresses as Bill Cosby for Halloween, Wears Blackface

By now, we would be naive to expect Halloween to come and go without an offensive, racist costume showing up on social media. One student at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), though, has gone above and beyond this year. Charles “Brock” Denton, a sophomore and member of Sigma Tau Gamma, attended a Halloween party thrown by his fraternity on Friday wearing a Bill Cosby costume, according to the Daily Mail. As if dressing as an alleged serial rapist was not enough, the student completed his look with — you guessed it — blackface.

As you try to wrap your mind around the many distasteful elements on display here, consider this: Denton claims he had never heard of “blackface” or its racist history and implications, according to the article. UCA, however, refused to accept Denton’s ignorance as a valid excuse.

According to the UCA campus publication The Echo, UCA President Tom Courtway addressed the incident immediately. Courtway wrote in a handwritten note posted to Twitter:

“A short time ago we were made aware of a picture on social media showing what is purported to be a UCA student wearing blackface. This picture is highly offensive and repugnant, and this representation goes against all we, at UCA believe in and stand for.” Courtway said the photo would be investigated and dealt with accordingly, according to the publication.

Hundreds of students have applauded the UCA president’s swift action, liking and sharing the tweet, with one student writing, “Don’t know why people try it time & time again, they should know by now we do not play at all. We research & report accordingly.” Others, sadly, defended Denton’s right to wear the offensive costume. One student criticized the university’s response as a violation of the First Amendment, which includes freedom of expression from government interference. “The first Amendment is not UCA’s cup of tea,” the student tweeted.

The Daily Mail says authorities are taking a zero-tolerance approach, though, and that “UCA’s Interfraternity Council has ‘disowned’ the chapter.” In a domino effect, Sigma Tau Gamma has has been suspended by its national headquarters — a move confirmed by UCA’s official Twitter — and Denton has been expelled from the fraternity.

Originally, Denton showed up at the party in a loud 1980s “Cosby sweater” and a face smeared with black paint. He proudly posed for pictures with his fraternity brothers, and even posted one of the photos to his now-deleted Instagram account. The chapter confirmed that Denton’s costume was, indeed, intended to represent Bill Cosby, according to the Daily Mail, and Denton’s fraternity brothers did ask the student to wash his face. He complied, according to the article.

But the evidence of his mind-bogglingly poor costume choice was already documented on social media, and the Internet does not forget. The photo he posted was captioned with, “It was a bold night,” according to a screengrab posted by the Daily Mail.

In the backlash, a seemingly enlightened, yet still somewhat confused, Denton attempted damage control, posting an apology to his Instagram (which, again, is now deleted). According to the The Daily Mail, the apology read, in part: “I am the farthest thing from discrimination [sic],” he wrote. “As a matter of fact, I fight for equality every day. I have been writing a book for two years on what it really means to be a good person. … I am by no means better than anybody else. Social media has corrupted society in regard to heated controversial topics such as this.”

Denton also described what he has experienced since the furor erupted. According to The Echo, he wrote: “Within a matter of a few hours social media has made me out to be a monster, a racist, a supremacist and those are just three of the many hateful names I have been called. I have been sent death threats, threats to burn my house down.”

You can see screen grabs of both apologies here and here.

While students have expressed differing opinions as to whether or not Denton’s costume was inappropriate, some students interviewed by The Echo were vocal about the disturbing nature of his choice. UCA junior Alexis Downing told the publication, “In Greek life we talk about diversity so much and having that Halloween party was not a good representation of diversity. As an African-American, I am very offended by it.”

UCA’s Students for the Propagation of Black Culture group had the final say on Twitter, posting a picture of the photo, according to the Daily Mail. “On behalf of the Black student population, this is NOT acceptable & is HIGHLY offensive,” the group wrote.

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