Student Voice


November 30, 2023



Offensive costume at UW-Madison goes too far

November 2, 2016

A line needs to be drawn. I have been asking myself, “Why?” for the past 10 minutes.

When I opened a new tab on my computer, the first thing that popped up, blanketed in news articles, was MSN’s homepage. Some of the stories posted consisted of election drama, unfortunate crime incidents and miscellaneous stories on celebrities. The main story, however, that caught my eye is one that happened in our very own university system: “Wisconsin releases statement on fan wearing racist costume to game.”

It explains an event that happened at a recent UW-Madison football game. When I clicked on the link, I saw an image at the top of the page. It showed a sea of red clothing with UW-Madison logos, and standing among all the amped-up sports fans was a person wearing a striped outfit, a Barack Obama mask and a noose wrapped around his neck. The person is also holding a sign that, because of a guy standing partially in front of him, I couldn’t read the entire thing. I did see, though, that it mentions “Hillary.”

It could’ve been an attempt to convey a political message, which is fine. What I have an issue with, though, is him sporting a noose around his neck, because that conveys a different message. To me, you aren’t criticizing politics anymore; you’re targeting a race.

Having said that, the costume isn’t the only alarming aspect of the picture. Among the crowd of people also occupying the bleachers, nobody appears to have a negative reaction. I wasn’t there, so I can’t speak factually about what happened, but it doesn’t look like anybody had a genuine problem, which is absolutely horrifying! As a matter of fact, the person standing to the right of him is holding the noose upwards.

It raises this question: Has this sort of racist ignorance become so normalized again that people just disregard the moron standing among them? When I hear stories of people verbally spewing discriminatory garbage from their mouths, I have learned to ignore it. This, on the other hand, is just embarrassing and I wasn’t even there.

When you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there is a three-paragraph statement given by the university. The first paragraph talks about how staff members asked him to remove the “offensive components” of the costume, and that he complied. The last paragraph talks about how the university does not condone this type of behavior and they want all people to feel valued.

Those are fair statements. However, the problem I have is squeezed in between those two paragraphs. The second paragraph states, “The costume, while repugnant and counter to the values of the university and athletic department, was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech.”

I understand that; one of the appeals about this glorious country is the fact that Americans can voice their opinions openly. I personally feel there should be some sort of a limit. If we were to ask ourselves, “How far is too far?” I think acts like this are inching pretty close to the line in the sand.