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York students apologise for Cool Runnings Halloween costume

22nd November 2013

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The four York University students who caused controversy by dressing up as the Cool Runnings Jamaican bobsleigh team have apologised and said that they didn’t realise that they were mocking anyone.

The “profoundly sorry” students, one of whom is a former pupil of Eton, have issued a public apology, and say that would rather “not attract further attention.”

The apology came in a letter that began “Dear students and staff of York University”, and was sent to the Huffington Post by York’s student paper, Vision.

The letter called the decision to ‘black-up’ ‘idiotic’, and continued: “There was no intent of malice or offence, the costumes were not chosen to mock or insult the BME students of York, or any members of the wider community. We were not aware of the connections between black painted faces and the minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th centuries, which promoted the mocking of stereotypes, the perpetuation of which is harmful to the stability of our increasingly multicultural society. Had we been aware of this at the time, we would have never have considered this a Halloween costume. Ignorance, however, can no way mitigate the consequences of our actions. We have learnt a hard lesson from this.”

The Halloween costumes, which included black faces, a cardboard bobsleigh and a dreadlocked wig, were called “ridiculous” by the president of York University’s Student Union Kallum Taylor, and “unbelievably disgusting” by politics student Caitlin.

The university’s black, minority and ethnic officers, Sairish Tahir and Isabelle Scott, said: “This is an incredibly insensitive and arrogant decision made by a group of supposed young adults who thought that "blacking up" and appropriating one's race would be a great joke.

“Blacking up is steeped in a history of discrimination, degradation and bigotry.

“Choosing to perpetuate these racial stereotypes to create shock value seems to be an increasing common theme across young people at universities and will certainly not be tolerated as acceptable behaviour, in this day and age.”

The letter ends with a request for forgiveness, as well as a further apology – for £2,000 damage caused by the students to a downstairs kitchen.

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