— Students across the country were on edge Wednesday as they faced the possibility of facing backlash for wearing blackface Halloween costumes, with some students in several states saying they did not feel safe in their communities.
The costumes, which included masks of Black Panthers, Ku Klux Klan members and others, were being worn at college campuses across the United States in protest of police brutality and racial inequality.
But some students across the nation have been using the costumes to express their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and they say the costumes have been used in many of their communities to bring attention to the issue of police violence.
“I have not been the only one who has been attacked because I have been wearing the Black Panther mask.
That has been used by many in the Black community,” said Emily Schmitt, a student at the University of Missouri.
The university suspended the classes of students who wore blackface costumes on campus on Wednesday, but it also issued a warning about the costumes.
The school said in a statement it was “very concerned by the appropriateness of such costumes in our public spaces.”
“As an institution committed to academic freedom and free speech, we take seriously the right to be offended by the ideas expressed on our campuses,” the statement said.
Schmitt said she is concerned about how students are being targeted for their views.
“Black folks and others are being hurt and people are being taken advantage of,” she said.
“This is a moment of real reckoning,” said Mariah O’Brien, a sophomore at University of South Carolina.
“It’s a time of reckoning for the white supremacy movement that has been going on for decades.”
O’Brien said she wanted to wear a blackface mask so she could protest against police brutality.
She said she wore the mask because she is black.
“It’s an act of solidarity and of resistance, not just for the black community, but the whole movement, the whole world, it’s all of us,” O’Brian said.
O’Brian also said the mask she wore was not the same mask worn by a black man in Louisiana who died after being hit by a car.
“He’s still wearing it,” OBrien said.
“He has not been shot.”
Oborner, a white male, was killed in August by police.
His brother, Olin, was shot and killed by police in December.
“My whole life, my whole family has been fighting for equality and equality for all people, and I want to say that Black Lives matter, too,” Oborner’s brother, Aaron, said.
Aaron O’Brien, who is black, said he wore a mask because he was proud of his family’s fight against police violence in Louisiana.
“We are proud of our family and the work we do to educate and expose our community to a world that is so unequal,” he said.
He said his brother had no plans to wear the mask this Halloween.
Oboror said he was wearing the mask for solidarity with the Black Panthers.
“Because we know we can’t continue to be silent when Black people are killed by the police every day,” OBrien said.