Not a matter of sensitivity, but morality



Last Friday night, I tweeted two pictures. The first was of a young man named Cole Paulson dressed as Colin Kaepernick, the American quarterback who has

come under fire for kneeling as a form of protest during the National Anthem. 

As part of his costume, Paulson was wearing an afro wig and a sign hanging from his neck that read “Will Stand for Food.” He was also wearing blackface.

The second was a screenshot of his Twitter profile, in which his bio said “SDSU” and “Brookings, SD.” My caption read, “do your thing, twitter.”

Overnight, the tweet blew up. It gained 1,957 retweets and 2,253 likes before I decided to delete it. SDSU emailed me, informing me that although Paulson was not currently enrolled, they had reached out to him and were planning on using the situation as an example of offensive behavior. 

I had originally decided to leave the tweet published, as a friend told me personal anecdotes about her interactions with students from Paulson’s former high school. This friend played basketball in high school, and whenever her team played against Paulson’s high school, she would ask to stay home because students would hurl racial slurs at her. 

However, when Paulson contacted me about threats made against his safety and property, I decided to delete the tweet to minimize the damage I could. SDSU had done all they could do. 

Not only did my tweet gain exposure, but other accounts reposted the photos and received even more interactions. I messaged one account and asked it to take the post down, as action had been taken, and the owner complied. 

The Argus Leader wrote an article about the incident, and gave Paulson a platform on which to apologize for his ignorance. The Associated Press picked up the story, and soon the incident was published by major newspapers in the country. 

I stand by what I did. Could I have executed my point in a more tactful way? Yes. Do I regret it? No. Through this experience, I learned that there are consequences for being a whistleblower. Although the majority of the feedback I received was positive, and stood in solidarity with me, not all of it was.

In 2017, there is absolutely no reason that anyone should be ignorant of why blackface is wrong. In his Halloween costume, Paulson was mocking both an icon and a movement fighting to end police brutality on minorities. It is not a matter of being “too sensitive”; it is a matter of feeding into the system of oppression of people of color. 

This system has been here a long time, and it’s our job as human beings to stop injustice when we see it. If we don’t stand up against injustices collectively, they are just going to continue, even if the people being victimized report them. This situation could have been alleviated by some thoughtful consideration of what is right.

Call out your friends, call out your family members. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: