Brock Denton’s Racist Halloween Costume Offers Arkansas A Teachable Moment

Student’s Offensive Costume Provides Opportunity For Cultural Reflection In Rural Arkansas Cities

Brock Denton’s (now deleted) Instagram post.

Last weekend, University of Central Arkansas sophomore Brock Denton was expelled from campus after an Instagram post of his racist “blackface” Bill Cosby costume at his fraternity’s Halloween party went viral on social media.

Over the weekend, the incident made national headlines:

Denton’s life has been forever altered by his racist, indefensible, and tasteless Halloween costume. While Denton’s costume justified his strict punishment and public outcry, it is important to recognize the systemic failures of his community that may have fostered a mindset where he failed to recognize how offensive “blackface” is (or that it is not funny to dress like an alleged sexual predator) and to take the opportunity to ensure the central Arkansas community learns his mistake.

According to reports, Denton is from Greenbrier, Arkansas — a town east of Conway with a cultural makeup that is 97% white and less than half-a-percent of African American people according to 2010 Census data.

In rural communities like Greenbrier, developing children fail to receive exposure to racial diversity on their own, so community leaders, teachers, and families must take extra measures to ensure their younger generations comprehend race relations and understand the perceptions that offensive actions and words have in the public arena. What Denton demonstrated was a subconscious lack of respect for the African American community: A likely cultural shortcoming of his upbringing. It’s possible the fact his costume was racist and offensive genuinely did not occur to him.

At this point, it is simply too late for Denton to fully recover. His decision to wear “blackface” will follow him online for the rest of his adult life.

But the public outcry over Denton’s costume provides an opportunity for majority-white communities like Greenbrier to re-evaluate the way they talk to their children about race, and offers a teachable moment going forward that should echo beyond the weekend’s viral media outrage.

Denton’s poor judgement should force the central Arkansas community to reflect how it discusses race with its upcoming generations, and to encourage wider understanding and respect for racial diversity.

*Disclosure: Jared L. Holt is a former member of The Echo editorial board, but opinions expressed in this article do not represent current newspaper staff or the University of Central Arkansas
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