Another protest is happening at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Mustang Statue next to the University Union and will possibly head off campus. Also Saturday, members of the Black Student Union are expected to leave their booth at Cal Poly Open House to walk in protest to Santa Rosa Park.
Hundreds of students marched across the Cal Poly campus Friday, protesting what they say is a lack of response from the university to a photo showing a fraternity member had painted his face black during PolyCultural Weekend. It sparked outrage, a university investigation, fraternity suspension, member resignations, Greek Life probation, and now an explanation from the young man who was pictured.
Friday’s protest happened during Open House for freshmen, as parents were taking in the campus they may decide to send their kids upon high school graduation.
"We never hear anything about SLO and then, of course, it’s on the news," said Margaret Clarke, the mother of a prospective student.
Familes looked on as protesters marched through campus, demanding the university step up support for minority students.
"My daughter is mixed, so she looks nothing like me, and I feel really bad saying that I’m glad, you know, because then I don’t have to worry about her as much," Clarke said, adding that seeing the viral photo was disappointing.
"It’s a cycle, you know. It’s the way they were raised and that’s the way they raised their kids – they don’t know any better."
For some prospective students, the photo was a shock.
"It might deter my decision to come here, honestly, because I do believe in, like, social and racial justice issues," said prospective student Vanessa Santos.
The student behind the viral photo also says he’s also learned from his mistake. In a statement to KSBY News, Kyler Watkins said he painted his face black not out of racism or discrimination, but because his fraternity had split up into teams of different colors for a game and he was on the "black team."
He said he was unaware of how insensitive he was to the racial implications of blackface and is sorry to have given other students "the impression they can indiscriminately be made fun of because of their race or appearance."
"In my own mind, I was simply ‘going all out’ in my theme as a member of the black team. My actions stemmed from ignorance, but never hate, discrimination or the intent to hurt anyone."
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