An Idaho credit union has issued an apology after posting photos of several employees of its Post Falls branch dressed in blackface for a Halloween costume depicting the Jamaican bobsled team, drawing criticism on social media.
“Really P1FCU you REALLY thought this was an appropriate costume for your employees to dress as, LET ALONE POST IT TO FB only to delete it after someone spoke up about how wrong that is,” wrote Savanna Hurst in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 200 times on Wednesday afternoon.
The photo shows four women in black facepaint with what appear to be afro or braid wigs, yellow stocking caps and a cardboard “bobsled” labeled “Jamaica” — a nod to the 1988 Olympic team and the popular ‘90s movie “Cool Runnings.”
The photo had been deleted from a gallery of Potlatch No. 1 Federal Credit Union employees’ Halloween costumes, but commenters demanded an explanation. On Wednesday, company president and CEO Chris Loseth posted the following statement on Facebook:
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“An incident of cultural insensitivity occurred yesterday during Halloween that resulted in the posting of a picture to a personal Facebook page. The picture was meant to be a representation of the first Jamaican national bobsled team who gained fame in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and whose heroics were made famous in the 1993 movie ‘Cool Runnings’. The 4 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.
“P1FCU did not post this picture on our Facebook page and offers our apologies to those who were offended by the actions of these employees. The employees involved have been reprimanded.
“The need for cultural sensitivity among all Americans is well recognized and we will be reinforcing cultural diversity training with our entire staff.”
While dozens of other posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter condemned the costume regardless of Loseth’s statement, others expressed understanding and pledged continued support for the credit union, which operates 14 branches in Idaho and Washington.
“I love p1fcu, their customer service always goes above and beyond. I'm sure this was just something innocent and blown out of proportion by snowflakes,” wrote Haley Eck.
“Thank you P!FCU, it it important to acknowledge when a wrong has occurred and work to correct it. Clearly the insensitivity went beyond those four employees because there was no reprimand while they were at work,” commented Jessica Martin on Loseth’s apology.
In recent years, the topic of blackface and other themes of insensitivity in Halloween costumes has prompted heated debate. In Boise, a restaurant owner apologized this summer after painting his face black for an advertisement that drew intense backlash online.