Cal Poly student in blackface apologizes, says he 'did not know the historical ramifications'

Apr 13, 2018

Cal Poly State University's student media outlet, Mustang News, published a letter to the editor Friday from the Cal Poly student who wore blackface at a fraternity party on April 7.

The letter published on the Mustang News website is addressed to Cal Coast News, an unrelated San Luis Obispo County media outlet. In the letter, Kyler Watkins said he would like to address statements made by Cal Poly to the press, "in addition to factual misstatements rampant on social media."

Kyler Watkins in blackface next to another student at a Cal Poly fraternity party
Credit Unknown

Watkins said that his actions "stemmed from ignorance, but never hate, discrimination or the intent to hurt anyone."

Watkins apologized and said he takes full responsibility for his lack of judgment. 

"I am sorry because I have given other students the impression they can indiscriminately be made fun of because of their race or appearance. In my own mind, I was simply 'going all out' in my theme as a member of the black team," Watkins wrote. "Believe me, I wish with all my heart that I had been a member of the blue team."

He also said that he was not previously aware of blackface and over the past week, his life has been threatened:

"When I woke up Sunday morning to learn that 'blackface' is of historical racial significance, no words can express my regret and horror. I began researching on my laptop and learned that blackface was used in early theater to perpetuate racial stereotypes. I knew immediately that I had made a grave mistake, and moreover, I fully understood why people would hate me. My own lack of awareness has placed my life in danger and worse, has hurt other people whom I had no intention of alienating, mocking or offending in any way. My life has been threatened, lies about me are permeating social media, and justifiably so."

Watkins adds that although social media and editorials in Mustang News have dismissed the fraternity's explanation of the incident as 'pathetic' and 'false,' he has provided Cal Poly with evidence that his statements are true. 

Mustang News added an editor's note to the letter, disputing the editorials regarding the explanation as 'pathetic' or 'false.'

In closing, the student said he was open to dialogue and hopes the incident will lead to increased awareness. Watkins has resigned his membership in the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.