Teens wearing blackface in Utah Walmart; governor responds

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox condemned a video circulating on social media Tuesday. (Michael Dwyer, Associated Press)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox condemned a video circulating on social media Tuesday that depicts what appears to be teens wearing blackface and dressed as inmates, accompanied by at least one white person wearing a police costume.

“We strongly condemn racism in all its forms and we call on every Utahn to reject such offensive stereotypes, slurs and attitudes,” the governor said in a statement. “We must do better.”

The video was filmed in a Walmart in Cedar City on Halloween, according to Cedar City Police Sgt. Justin Ludlow, who told the Deseret News the department was contacted by someone who witnessed the incident, and it subsequently launched an investigation.

Cedar City police did not respond to the incident, but are working with resource officers at local schools to identify the people in the video.

The resource officers will investigate the video, Ludlow said, adding that unless there was a physical assault or verbal threat, the people in the video did not do anything illegal.

In a separate statement, the department said “Cedar City Police Department and Cedar City officials do not condone this type of activity.”

The Iron County School District is also investigating the incident. It said in a statement it was “taking this matter seriously” and “will take appropriate action once that investigation is complete.”

“Based on the information we have obtained, preliminary findings indicate the individuals in blackface are not students enrolled in Iron County schools,” the statement reads. “Our district and schools promote inclusiveness and acceptance and denounce all forms of discrimination and racism whether those actions are on campus or off campus, in person or online.”

The video was initially uploaded to a private TikTok account before being widely distributed on various social media platforms. It shows three young people with striped inmate costumes wearing blackface, who when approached by a woman filming, laugh off her concerns.

“Well, if you put it that way,” says the woman dressed as a police officer at the beginning of the video.

“Do you guys understand the consequences of what you’ve just done?” a woman asks. “You guys are never going to get into a college, you guys are not going to get any scholarships, because this is a hate crime.”

“We all dropped out of high school, it’s OK,” responds one of the teens, not wearing a costume, to the tune of laughter from the teens wearing blackface.

“I still don’t think it’s appropriate for you guys to be doing this. … It’s really not funny,” the woman responds.

The video went viral within hours, prompting widespread condemnation and a wave of rumors — one of them being the teens in the video attended Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain. That’s not true, according to the Alpine School District.

Social media accounts associated with Cedar Valley were harassed, as were individual students, according to a spokesperson for Alpine School District who told the Deseret News the district “denounces racism in any form.”

“Public comments on Tik Tok incorrectly named a few Cedar Valley High School students and their families as participants,” the statement reads. “After an investigation in cooperation with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, we can confirm that this information is false. Cedar Valley High School students were not involved in the video. Additionally, we are deeply concerned that some of our students have been targeted with hateful and slanderous comments and threats.”

This story will be updated.

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Kyle Dunphey

Kyle Dunphey is a reporter on the Utah InDepth team, covering a mix of topics including politics, the environment and breaking news. A Vermont native, he studied communications at the University of Utah and graduated in 2020. Whether on his skis or his bike, you can find Kyle year-round exploring Utah’s mountains.

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