Frat member speaks out about blackface accusations

April 14, 2018

OPINION by KYLER WATKINS

As a former Cal Poly Lambda Chi Alpha member, I would like to respond to numerous statements made by Cal Poly to the press regarding the Lambda Chi Alpha “blackface” incident, in addition to factual misstatements rampant on social media.

First and most importantly, I take full responsibility for the lack of judgment I displayed when I painted my face black at a brotherhood event on April 7. If there’s any part of this message to take into consideration, I hope it would be that my ill-informed decision to paint my face black had nothing whatsoever to do with racism or discrimination.

Growing up white and privileged, I was truly unaware of how insensitive I was to the racial implications of blackface. I was, in fact, a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha “black team,” wore black clothes and painted my face. Dozens of witnesses, text messages leading up to the event, photographs and a video support my unwavering position that I never intended to represent or mimic a black person.

I am not in the now infamous gangster photo because that picture depicts members of the yellow team who opted for a gangster theme. I was not on the yellow team, and for that reason, I am not in the photo, nor was I dressed as a gangster.

When I woke up Sunday morning to learn that “blackface” is of historical racial significance, no words can express my regret and horror. I began researching on my laptop and learned that blackface was used in early theater to perpetuate racial stereotypes. I knew immediately that I had made a grave mistake, and moreover, I fully understood why people would hate me.

My own lack of awareness has placed my life in danger and worse, has hurt other people whom I had no intention of alienating, mocking or offending in any way. My life has been threatened, lies about me are permeating social media, and justifiably so.

Although social media and editorials in the Mustang News have dismissed my explanation as “pathetic” and “false,” the explanation is true and supported by evidence I have supplied to the university.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a racist, and contrary to some reports, I have never been involved in any kind of discriminatory incident. I am not sorry simply because I “was caught.” I am sorry because I 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.  Believe me, I wish with all my heart that I had been a member of the blue team.

Second, the press, social media, a new Cal Poly parents’ Facebook page and editorials to the Mustang News have portrayed me as a tried and true racist. They have argued that the concepts of the “benefit of the doubt” and “there are two-sides to every story” do not apply to me because there is no excuse for “blackface.” I agree. There is no excuse for blackface; I truly did not know the historical ramifications of it on April 7.  I do now.

I understand there was a diversity march on Friday, April 13. I’m very open to a dialogue with anyone or any student group who would like to discuss increased diversity awareness within the Greek system and the school as a whole. I’m confident that increased awareness and education is the key to preventing the type of hurt I have caused.

Ultimately, I cannot control what is said or believed about me in the press and social media. For my part, all I can do now is express my sincerest apologies to those whom I have hurt. My actions stemmed from ignorance, but never hate, discrimination or the intent to hurt anyone.







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17 Comments

  1. George Bailey says:

    I believe Mr. Kyler Watkins!

    The mindless snowflakes think they have found an instance of racism, and they will not be stopped until Mr. Watkins is run out-of-town. The Democrat leftists are tilting at windmills, and it is hard to believe how our society has become so prone to unrighteous indignation.

    I saw some black people wearing ‘western clothing’ yesterday in downtown San Luis Obispo. Should white people be offended? Is this cultural appropriation? Should we have a protest march and demand change?

    Mayor Heidi Harmon and the SLO Progressives will surely seek to capitalize on this issue, I’m sure they are probably seeking therapy centers for anyone who had their feelings hurt by this traumatic event. We need to expand the idea of ‘safe spaces’ to help all the minority students somehow tolerate the ‘racism’ they face on a daily basis at Cal Poly, lol.

    (28) 40 Total Votes - 34 up - 6 down
  2. copperhead says:

    Son, cal poly has officially educated, castrated and reprogrammed you. Welcome to the world of grievance politics. Cal poly should give you your doctorate for that piece you wrote. Accepting white privilege guilt is the first step of many more to come.

    (26) 38 Total Votes - 32 up - 6 down
  3. ml1999 says:

    What is worse. Death threats, or a questionable tradition? What is worse. Death threats, or an insensitive stereotype?

    The Left today is so hypersensitive, painting many people as victims, and white and Jewish males as villains on college campuses.

    I have never met an Irish person who was offended by “The Fighting Irish” or the “Paddy wagon”. Compton High School students are known as “Tar babies”!! Never heard anyone at Compton complain.

    Social norms change, and this young man wasn’t aware. Yet several colleges are holding “people of color” events, or whites not invited events, as if that is somehow enlightened or hip. Frankly, that sounds more deliberately offensive and appalling. And gee, I didn’t have to play the Race card!

    Get over yourselves. The world cares little about your ethnicity, sex, or who you sleep with! Do you have knowledge, skills, hard work, manners?

    (44) 54 Total Votes - 49 up - 5 down
  4. Fleet says:

    I believe you Kyler. I’m in my 50’s and also had to google blackface to see what all the fuss was about. And yes I’m white but have never been privileged. If you had been on the blue team and painted your face blue, you would have offended the smurf community.

    (37) 47 Total Votes - 42 up - 5 down
  5. junkag says:

    “My life has been threatened, lies about me are permeating social media, and justifiably so.”

    Ain’t no justification for propagating lies.

    (5) 15 Total Votes - 10 up - 5 down
  6. Reality Check says:

    As I recall from old movies, “black face” was just a black circle around the front of the face. From the photo, you painted all of your face and neck. At your age, its very reasonable that you had never seen or had knowledge of the “black face” caricature. Every time I’ve seen it in an old movie the participants have been entertainers singing / playing instruments. In your case, you were joining in on some fraternity goof unrelated to the accusations. Based on the hyper-sensitivity I’ve seen these days, you might have faced similar disapproval if you had painted your face yellow or red or —–.

    It is sad that our world has come to the point where everything someone says or does is seen through the fawlty lens of prejudices. You apologized for being white and privileged. Its a shame you felt you had to do so. You can’t help being white any more than anyone can claim or disclaim credit for their color. Skin pigmentation is a fact of biology and indicates nothing of good or bad character.

    I truly hope that this difficult time passes and that you survive unharmed by those who are intolerant and misguided into thinking that by hurting you, their life will some how be better.

    (45) 53 Total Votes - 49 up - 4 down
  7. aye-caramba says:

    Sir, You have learned a valuable lesson about the era you sadly live in. The mindless extreme left mob rules these days, quick to blame and execute without submitting to reason and logic.They love their social temper tantrums. Unforgiving, vile, pathetically seeking to be “victimized” because it fits a bigger agenda seeking to portray this nation and culture as hopelessly racist, while overlooking truly oppressive cultures in most other areas of the world. I truly felt for you, and your statement confirms it. BTW, resist using the term “white privilege” because it is a buzz word for the racial fascists that seek to demonize anyone who does not buy into the “victim agenda” that these America “Shamers” wish to propagate. The reaction against you was pathetic in they rushed to judgement before getting the whole story. And worse, they would never admit they were wrong. Ever. Dangerous.

    (55) 67 Total Votes - 61 up - 6 down
  8. korie says:

    I hope for an end to racism and discrimination of all types – of which there are many – but I want to offer my support to you, Kyler. If what you say is true, of course you deserve to be treated as such. There are far more than two sides to most stories, yet every word or move has become exploited toward some platform or agenda so that intent has become inconsequential somehow. My generally “liberal” daughter was humiliated in front of a lecture hall full of students because she used the pronoun “she” and everyone, she was accusingly informed, must be referred to as “they.” What??? Did we vote on that? On the off chance that this one female might not want to be referred as “she” and might be left to feel uncomfortable, this well meaning young lady has to be made an example of and left remarkably so?

    In my experience, some of those who shout most loudly from ivory towers might do well to look more closely at their own shadows than to be pointing so vigorously at others. I think your explanation deserves to be heard and examined.

    (27) 33 Total Votes - 30 up - 3 down
  9. rukidding says:

    Keep your head up because you appear to be an upstanding young man. You are wrongfully being depicted as a racist and all of us who have any common sense at all know that you are not a racist. You are the victim of a very liberal atmosphere at Cal Poly, which is like most schools these days. The president of Cal Poly statement that he was “horrified” by your actions speaks for itself. It just shows how far he is removed from reality and has gone on the band wagon to play the race card. If I had anything to say about it he would be down the road for playing politics with this. Stay strong and carry on with your life because only a few are behind this mob action.

    (73) 85 Total Votes - 79 up - 6 down

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