HS coach posts blackface pic of himself as Bob Marley, now wants to sing redemption song
The Bloomington, Ind., man apparently learned too late how offensive blackface can be
As renewed discussions over the unethical wearing of blackface heat up, a high school coach in Indiana is in trouble after he posted an old picture of himself with his face painted black posing as Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley to defend against it being offensive.
But it was a social media fail for Richard Gist, an assistant football and track coach and substitute teacher at Brown County High School in Nashville, Ind., who shared the blackface image under someone’s comment on Jan. 23 with the caption, “What’s wrong with it.”
On Facebook, a user named Anthony Scott Piatt tried to explain historically why the image is offensive to African Americans.
“Dear fellow white people, blackface is always bad, ALWAYS. If you didn’t know, now you do. Sincerely, A white guy shaking his damn head.”
Gist replied with a picture of himself at Halloween dressed in blackface as Marley with the reply.
Someone replied back, “Im a black man and I am telling you that is offensive.”
Gist then answered, “that’s not really a reason. That’s your opinion, which i can respect. I’m concerned as to why you find it offensive.”
Someone then challenged Gist to upload as his profile pic.
“If you think that it’s okay then why don’t you use it as your profile picture for a while? I’m sure you will get the answer to the question you seek. It is racist and it is offensive to most people of African origin.”
“it [sic] was my profile pic. For a long time. Not 1 remark that it was racist. I’d still like you know why you find it offensive,” Gist said.
He then changed it to his profile pic and the backlash was swift. Bloomington activist Vauhxx Booker took a screenshot and sent it to Brown County Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack. Gist was suspended and the district is recommending that he be fired, according to the Brown County Democrat.
“The blackface image was certainly troubling, but what compounded our concern was the tone of his engagement within the social media thread,” Hammack told Yahoo! Lifestyle.
“It was not representative of what we want modeled by our own employees. Thus, we are moving forward consistent with our beliefs.”
Booker said Gist failed to heed the warning and that’s why he turned him in.
“(My friend) was being an upstanding member of the community to take the time out of his day to really express how hurtful blackface is and how it’s inappropriate,” Booker told the Democrat. “I saw Mr. Gist remain unmoved and insensitive. He doubled down and seemed to post this image to his profile out of sheer spite.”
The school board has a meeting Feb. 7 and will approve staffing changes then, the paper reports.
Gist has since issued this apology to told Fox 59 News, “In approximately 2008 or 2007, or thereabouts, on Halloween I dressed up as Bob Marley, a character that I admire who spreads love, peace, and hope, and I dressed up as this person out of respect for him and what he believes and not in the intent of offending anybody or insinuating that another race is superior to any other.”
After deleting the photo he posted a message to Facebook apologizing further.
Gist’s supporters however, have posted a Change.org petition demanding that he keep his job.
Virginia governor Ralph Northam still resists resignation
In recent days the Blackface issue has heated up after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was came under fire over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
There has been unanimous calls from his own party to resign. It was a bizarre weekend in which he first admitted he was in the picture, and then denied it.
The Democrat’s stunning about-face — at a weekend news conference where he also acknowledged putting on blackface to imitate Michael Jackson at a dance contest decades ago, and appeared to briefly entertain the notion of doing the moonwalk for reporters — only seemed to make things worse.
The chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus said that Northam “still does not understand the seriousness of his actions.”
The yearbook photo shows someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.