Blackface costume sparks controversy

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A local restaurant’s social media pages were flooded with angry messages after an employee wore blackface as a Halloween costume over the weekend with the intention of “trying to be offensive.” Balliceaux, a Fan District restaurant, posted an apology for the incident earlier Monday (it has since been removed).

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The restaurant posted another statement on their Facebook page later in the afternoon:

The employee, Chris Bopst, a founding member of the band GWAR and Style Weekly columnist, has resigned as the restaurant’s music booker. He offered the following on his Facebook account:

I seriously screwed up. I would like to apologize to humanity for my failure as a human being. Recently, I wore a black face clown outfit thinking I was being thought-provoking and funny. It wasn’t until I woke up Sunday morning that I realized how seriously wrong I was.

Since then, I’ve experienced an acute moral revulsion with myself that I can’t accurately describe. It’s a queasy sickness; an all-composing sense of regret twisting and turning in my stomach. All I know is that I deserve it. In writing this, I want in no way to absolve myself of my actions. People have every right to be angry; I am disgusted with myself and I will be for the rest of my life. I will never stop being ashamed. I’ve demeaned myself, my family and all those close to me.

No apology will ever be enough.

Racial prejudice is very real. Conscious or unconscious, the sting of racism is something no white person in this culture can ever feel. It is reserved exclusively to be felt by people of color. As a white male, I know that I will never know just how truly awful it really is and it is my responsibility-especially as an American Caucasian- to acknowledge and fight against the ongoing scrooge of racism.

If anything can be salvaged from this mess, I had a frank discussion with my daughter about racism and why what I did is wrong. We talked about slavery, the origin of blackface, how black people weren’t treated like human beings and how black people have only been able to vote as long as Daddy has been alive. I could tell she couldn’t grasp the enormity of it. “People used to keep people as slaves?” She asked. “Yes, baby, they shipped black people in chains from Africa to work for rich white landowners.” She thought about it for a moment. “That’s not right.”

I went on to tell her that some people today still believe that you can judge a person by the color of their skin and that racism is still very much alive. “Nobody is born a racist, baby, they are raised that way” “Those must be some stupid parents.” This is a discussion we will continue to have as she gets older.

I regret that my actions were the cause of my daughter’s first real experience with racism, but it is important for her to know that Daddy seriously messed up. It wasn’t right and I wanted to make sure she knew it. I hope against hope that she will live in a world without racial diversions. I will do everything in my power to continue to make that world a possibility. I also hope that eventually this reprehensible act will not define me in the public eye. My family, friends and co-workers had nothing to do with my actions and I deeply regret making them guilty by association. This whole experience has been intensely traumatic and I deeply regret my decision to flaunt hurtful racial stereotypes. I hope that you can forgive me.

BOPST

Bopst also sent posted the following message on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

Due to my reprehensible behavior, I am resigning from my position as the music booker at Balliceaux. I am sorry for my actions and the unforgivable harm I’ve caused. I betrayed myself, my family, my friends, the hard-working people and patrons of Balliceaux and humanity as a whole. There is no excuse.

Chris Bopst

Salim Khalfani, former head of the NAACP in Richmond, emailed the following to 8News:

Chris Bopst an employee of Style Weekly and Balliceaux Restaurant wore this costume to a Halloween Party and posted this pic on Facebook.  This is not funny and I am not accepting his apology and deleting his FB page has not soothed this wound.  He and his employers need to be held accountable.

Bopst is no longer writing for Style Weekly as a result of the incident.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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