A photo of seven white teens wearing blackface at a Halloween fundraiser with the hashtag “n***** gang” went viral.
Now, one of the seven, Jasmine Bates, is saying adults encouraged the Oregon teens to wear the black makeup on their faces so they could hide in the dark and scare patrons of the haunted barn, the New York Post reports.
“In my opinion, the picture was innocent until somebody made it wrong,” Bates told KEZI, reports NBC local station KGW 8.
Bates said she didn’t know that the girl, whose name she did not reveal, who posted the photo to Snapchat would include a racist hashtag.
She also didn’t expect the backlash the photo caused, which included death threats. Now, she has plans to change schools, KGW 8 reports.
“I didn’t even know that the picture was posted until Sunday morning,” the Lebanon High School freshman said.
“I signed up for the role of doing people in black, and there was other people that did it too, and our job was basically to hide,” Bates said about the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter fundraiser. “One person hid behind the wall and like jumped out and scared people.”
Bates added that an adult chaperone instructed her and the others to “put our hair back and our hoods up and have our faces painted black so that they wouldn’t be visible at all.”
After all seven teens were adorned with black paint on their faces, they took a photo, but Bates insisted that she nor the others knew what the girl who posted the pic had written. Not until the next day when it caused an uproar.
“People were blowing up my phone [saying] ‘you’re disgusting,’ ‘You’re nasty,’” she recalled, KGW 8 reports. “There were people who like sent death threats and lots and lots of insults.”
On Monday (Nov. 4), when they returned to school, parents and students expressed their dismay in the racist gesture.
Lebanon High School’s principal Craig Swanson issued a warning that the girl who took and posted the photo could be punished for her actions, KGW 8 reports.
“I think we need as a school to examine and educate the whole idea of blackface,” he said, KGW 8 reports. “Though there was a role for it, to understand that’s not acceptable, and I will take that on as principal.”
Laura Lewis, Bates’ mother, said her daughter hasn’t returned to school since Monday.
She described the group of teens, who were wearing blackface, as “hard working kids” and “some of the best in the community.”
“We’re looking at other options just so we don’t have to return to the public school setting,” she said, KGW 8 reports.
Bates added, “The whole thing just doesn’t seem fair to me that all of us are getting blamed and attacked online for the one girl’s action.”
Superintendent Bo Yates said in a statement, according to KGW 8, “When an event such as this occurs it demands that we reevaluate our beliefs and priorities.”
In the statement, which was a letter sent to the Lebanon community, Yates also apologized for the photo and said the district will be working with their racial equity team to better educate staff and students on racism and bigotry, KGW 8 reports.
He added, “Our team is moving forward to ensure that our students feel safe and respected and to restore the feeling of positive optimism for our schools and community.”
Photo: Capture The World