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News >  Idaho

Blackface photo prompts apology from Idaho credit union

Nov. 1, 2017 Updated Wed., Nov. 1, 2017 at 10:04 p.m.

Screenshots of a photo posted Tuesday to credit union worker’s Facebook account started circulated online showing four workers of P1FCU who came to work on Halloween dressed in blackface. The company issued an apology Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Facebook / Courtesy photo)
Screenshots of a photo posted Tuesday to credit union worker’s Facebook account started circulated online showing four workers of P1FCU who came to work on Halloween dressed in blackface. The company issued an apology Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Facebook / Courtesy photo)

An Idaho credit union issued a public apology after a photo circulated online showing four bank workers dressed as caricatures of black athletes.

The photo, which was apparently taken inside the credit union and posted to Facebook on Halloween by one of the workers, depicts four women who work at P1FCU Credit Union in Lewiston with their faces darkened. According to the company, they were meant to resemble the 1988 Olympic Jamaican bobsled team, made famous in the movie “Cool Runnings.”

Many who responded to the photo called the costumes blackface, referring to a practice, popularized during the 19th century, of white actors dressing up as caricatures of African Americans. Today the practice is closely associated with the racism of the Jim Crow era.

The original photo has since been taken down. Chris Loseth, P1FCU’s president and CEO, wrote an apology on the credit union’s Facebook page on Wednesday, saying that P1FCU “offers our apologies to those who were offended by the actions of these employees.”

“The four female employees are shocked and saddened by the results of their depiction of this famous group of Jamaican athletes and meant no harm or disrespect to anyone,” Loseth wrote.

The statement also indicates the employees have been “reprimanded,” but it’s unclear to what extent.

Despite this apology, many took the company to task for referring to the incident as one “of cultural insensitivity” rather than calling it an overt act of racism. Others questioned why management at the Lewiston branch would allow the workers to come in to work dressed in blackface, much less pose for a photo inside.

A spokesperson for P1FCU was not immediately available for comment. Calls seeking comment from the manager of the Lewiston branch were not immediately returned Wednesday.

Dani Grant, who grew up in Lewiston and now lives in Seattle, said she canceled her account once she learned of the photo and what she deemed as a lukewarm response from the credit union.

“I’ve always really liked P1FCU,” she said over the phone from Seattle on Wednesday. “This is just really shocking and disheartening.”

Grant argued with others in the comments section of P1FCU’s post who criticized her for saying she would close her account. Others in the comments section defended the credit union’s statement, or said people were being too sensitive about an innocent Halloween costume.

Messages seeking further comment from people who disagreed with Grant were not returned Wednesday.

There were several commenters who agreed with Grant, but several others who didn’t. She wondered if the latter were racism apologists.

“I think that it’s easiest for people to say this was ignorance, this wasn’t the intent,” she said. “But deep down, they know this is racist.”

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