Valley News Live -- A group of students at the University of North Dakota are in hot water for wearing shirts that, some say, display "blatant racism." Several photos of the T-shirts have been making the rounds on social media following this weekend's Springfest at UND.
The group photo shows ten students in their black, green and white shirts. The shirts say "Siouxper Drunk" with a logo underneath, similar to the retired Fighting Sioux logo, pictured drinking from a beer bong. Prior to Springfest, someone in the group tweeted "Our Springfest shirts will make the news I just know it lol."
UND student Frank Sage says many students coming into Indian Student Services on Monday were upset by the incident. Sage says there was no excuse for it. He called it very degrading and demeaning. We are still waiting for comment from UND Administration on whether the students involved in the incident could face any disciplinary action.
A blog on "Thelastrealindians.com" says, "The 'Drunken Indian' caricature is one of the worst stereotypes about Native people that there is." Writer Ruth Hopkins goes on to say, "Alcoholism is a serious issue in Indian country and it's nothing to laugh about." The blogger cites a CDC statistic that liver disease and cirrhosis is the fifth cause of death among Native Americans and says 1 in 10 Native American deaths are alcohol-related.
People on social media are not only bothered by the student's choice to wear the shirts, but are also coming down on CustomInk.com, which is apparently where the shirts were made. CustomInk released the following statement on Monday:
"We are very sorry about this offensive design. CustomInk's business is focused on bringing people together in positive ways. We handle hundreds of thousands of custom t-shirt designs each year and have people review them to catch problematic content, including anything that's racially or ethnically objectionable, but we missed this one. We apologize for any pain or offense caused by this shirt, and we will continue to improve our review processes to make them better."
UND President Robert Kelley released the following statement late Monday afternoon:
"I was appalled to learn this weekend that a group of individuals had the poor judgment and lack of awareness and understanding to create and then wear T-shirts that perpetuated a derogatory and harmful stereotype of American Indians. The message on the shirts demonstrated an unacceptable lack of sensitivity and a complete lack of respect for American Indians and all members of the community.
These T-shirts were not worn at a UND function -- in fact, the event they are associated with is NOT a university event. They don't appear to have been worn on UND property, and we are not aware that the group represents any UND organization. UND has a responsibility to promote respect and civility within the campus community, and we have the responsibility and right to speak out against hateful behavior. As a University, we teach respect for others. It is imperative that, through our actions, we demonstrate respect for all."
The UND Fighting Sioux logo was retired after 68 percent of North Dakota voters voted to drop the nickname deemed "hostile and abusive" by the NCAA. The University of North Dakota cannot select a new nickname until 2015.