College will not punish white students in blackface, citing their First Amendment rights

Four white Colorado college students, who caused outrage on social media for posing in blackface, will not be punished by their school. According to university officials, the students involved are protected by their First Amendment rights.

The photo, captioned "Wakanda forevaa," a reference to Marvel's “Black Panther” film, was initially shared on Instagram last weekend and received almost immediate criticism and calls for Colorado State University to punish the four students.

"I go to CSU and to be honest, it's not surprising at all," a man, who said he was a student, commented on Denver community organizer and Denver School Board candidate Tay Anderson's Facebook post.

"Disgusting and absolutely unacceptable," another person commented. "There is no explanation for such a blatant hate crime against humanity."

One commenter added that the photo appears to be taken on school property and that she is "pretty certain there's something about this behavior in the handbook."

However, according to university officials, the photo did not technically violate any rules, and they are unable to punish the students.

"We have heard from many of you — and we hear you," CSU president Joyce McConnell wrote in a statement released on Tuesday. "We know that images like this one — whether consciously racist or not — can perpetuate deliberate racism and create a climate that feels deeply hostile."

While university officials admit that the photo of the students, whose names have not been released, "runs counter to our principles of community," they do not consider it a violation of any CSU rule or regulation. Furthermore, the university states that students, faculty and staff are permitted to post "whatever they wish" on their personal online accounts.

"The First Amendment prohibits the university from taking any punitive action against those in the photo," the statement read.

Both students and alumni spoke up regarding university officials' decision.

"CSU is an educational institution committed to respecting every member of our community and to facilitating discussions that can promote honesty, learning, and healing," the statement continued. "We are all here at CSU to learn, and we believe that this can be a powerful learning moment that leads to healing and reconciliation. We urge every member of our community to listen, and to hear, all the voices that make up this wonderful, diverse campus family so we can move forward together, stronger than ever."

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