GAB Instagram post sparks frustration

Many students said they did not understand how members of GAB missed the insensitiviy of the post before it went online


A screenshot of GAB’s original Instagram post, which was deleted in about five minutes.

Gus Cross

On March 6, the General Activities Board announced the musician for their winter term show, who will perform the Thursday before Fancy Dress. The announcement came in the form of an Instagram post that was taken down in about five minutes, according to GAB co-chair Alec Gustafson, ‘19.

The post portrayed Jeremih, a black musical artist, as having a white skin tone. The post immediately received criticism from members of the student body, resulting in the quick deletion of the post by GAB.

Later that day, GAB published an apology post on Instagram. The caption of the apology post said the problem occurred due to the excitement of sharing the news of Jeremih’s upcoming performance. The post also attributed the error to failing to review the post after applying the “typical filter” GAB uses in Instagram posts.

A screenshot of GAB’s apology post, which explained the mistake made in the original. This post was also deleted.

A separate statement on behalf of GAB was sent to the Phi in lieu of a comment from any individual member.

“We apologize for the initial image of Jeremih that was posted on the GAB Instagram. Our initial design was altered by a filter, creating an image that did not resemble Jeremih. Upon seeing the lack of resemblance, we instantly removed the photo within a five-minute window. We believe that a human mistake should not overshadow the excitement of the event with Jeremih being the most successful performer to come to the school in some time. His performance with a full live band should be a great kick off into the Fancy Dress weekend, and we hope to have as many people as possible come and enjoy the show.”

A member of GAB who asked not to be identified said an apology was sent that night to the entire committee. The apology reiterated many comments already made.

The GAB member said the email only left him or her with more questions.

“It talks about the initial design being altered by a filter, but it doesn’t say who applied the filter in the first place,” the member said.

Gustafson said he was unaware at the time of the interview what filter was used and if it was native to Instagram or a third-party app. “I do know the photo was filtered because I had never seen that photo [in the initial post] before,” Gustafson said. “I had seen the second copy that we posted.”

The Phi ran the second post through every Instagram filter and did not find one that altered Jeremih’s skin tone to the point that resembled the first Instagram post. The Phi did not test any third-party filter apps.

In the few hours following the initial post, many memes were created. Two popular ones directly made fun of GAB for not realizing the incorrect skin tone in the post. A SpongeBob SquarePants meme depicted throwing the GAB flyer into a fire.

A meme posted on the @theWLU Twitter account, which is run by multiple Washington and Lee students.

Many students do not believe GAB altered Jeremih’s skin tone in the first post intentionally, but still believe GAB was negligent in posting the image on social media without looking over it.

“I didn’t think it was malicious in intent,” said Dannick Kenon, ‘19. “But I thought it was completely lacking any form of oversight.”

He said he was surprised any Washington and Lee student would see that photo and not see any problems with it.

The follow-up post was ultimately also removed from Instagram following a barrage of comments questioning the original post. Some comments questioned which filter was used in the first post that GAB claimed altered Jeremih’s skin tone.

After it became clear that the post was only causing more controversy, the GAB co-chairs decided to take it down, said Gustafson.

“We did not want the mistake to be the focal point of the conversation,” Gustafson said. He added that they did not want the mistake to overshadow “what an awesome show it is going to be.”

Another point of controversy with the photo was the halos over photos of George Washington and Robert E. Lee in the background. The halos, said Gustafson, were an allusion to the cover of a joint album with Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign. The album’s cover is also a header on Jeremih’s website. The album cover shows the two artists with gold halos over their heads. Kenon said he understood the point but still disagreed with the design.

“I don’t think they should have picked that,” Kenon said. “Those are two slave owners next to a black man; I don’t think that was appropriate.”

Gustafson said he recognizes the concern with placing halos above the school’s namesakes.

“We weren’t trying to be rude,” Gustafson said. “We as a club thought we were being tongue-in-cheek with the album cover.”

A screenshot of Jeremih’s website homepage. GAB’s promotional design uses halos over George Washington and Robert E. Lee in a similar fashion to the halos over Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ign.

Gustafson believes organizations like GAB will move away from the “George and Bob” design “as time moves on.”

Jeremih will be performing this Thursday in Evans Dining Hall. Doors to the concert open at 8 p.m. Cooper Breithaupt, ‘20, will open for Jeremih at 8:15 p.m.