Edinburgh students ‘black up’ for pub crawl

Some students on the Beerientering event chose to black up as Somali pirates. Picture: contributed
Some students on the Beerientering event chose to black up as Somali pirates. Picture: contributed
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MEMBERS of the Edinburgh University Law Society have sparked outrage after “blacking up” during an organised pub crawl.

The Beerientering event, which took place on Thursday night, asked students to follow an “around the world” fancy dress code.

However, pictures soon began circulating on social media of four students – three men and one woman – “blacked up” to represent Somali pirates.

Third year Social Anthropology student Amie Robertson, 19, who is a member of the Amnesty Society and the Tibet Society, was one of those who challenged the group.

She said: “We ran into them in The Three Sisters bar. We tried to explain that their costumes were deeply offensive and racist. They didn’t even deny that, they just said, ‘Oh, it’s only for one night’. One of the members of the Vegetarian Society, who is of Pakistani descent, told them if they really thought it was okay, they would let her take a picture – and they did!”

Amy and her friends then left the bar as they did not wish to be around the group.

“We decided to go to The Hive, but by the time we arrived they were also in the queue. To our astonishment, the bouncers let them in without any questions. When we pointed out to the doorman that the costumes were very offensive, he responded that if people were offended they could leave. We decided we would not be going in.”

A spokeswoman for The Hive apologised to “those that have been offended”.

She said: “Other than their face paint, there were no features of the students’ costumes which indicated they were portraying Somalian Pirates.

“Based on this, the door staff present, including staff of various multicultural backgrounds, did not take offence and the students were allowed entry.

“We did not receive any complaints from customers within the club.”

Keir Gilius, President of the Law Society, apologised for any offence that may have been caused.

He said: “On behalf of the members of our society, we apologise unreservedly for any upset caused. In the future we will strive to ensure that any fancy dress events will actively discourage the use of any costumes that could be perceived as being offensive; if so, the wearers may be denied participation. As a society, we respect our members’ right to freedom of expression; however, cultural insensitivity is intolerable.”

Edinburgh University Rector Peter McColl described the incident as “deeply regrettable”, while a spokeswoman for the university said it was being taken “very seriously”.

Nadia Mehdi, Vice President Societies and Activities at EUSA, said: “I’m really shocked that in this day and age these students weren’t aware of or chose to ignore the offence they would cause. It’s not acceptable and should not be condoned.”

Edinburgh University Law Society is an independent society, not affiliated with Edinburgh University Students Association.

Is it always a cause for offence?

IS blacking up always as offensive as the politically correct would have us believe?

Distinguished actor Lawrence Olivier blacked up to play Othello at London’s Old Vic in the 1960s. He, of course, didn’t have a racist bone in his body. The part demanded it. Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder also blacked up for a role seen as overt, on-the-money satire. The same could be said for BBC comedy Little Britain. But it is the act’s association with minstrel shows which has earned it its racist status. Minstrels and toy golliwogs – once a staple of toy cupboards across Scotland - are now frowned upon in all sections of society because of blacking up’s links to the evils of slavery. When it comes to racism, ignorance is never a defence. It is one black and white argument where there are still no grey areas.