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Blackface at Balliceaux: Chris Bopst apologizes, then resigns

Posted at 12:28 PM, Oct 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-31 18:24:54-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- "I am not a racist, but I did something horribly racist."

That is what Chris Bopst, a Richmond musician, radio host, and music writer said after he posted a blackface selfie on social media from a weekend Halloween party at Balliceaux where he worked.

"Due to my reprehensible behavior, I am resigning from my position as the music booker at Balliceaux," he wrote in a message posted on the Balliceaux Facebook page Monday. "I am sorry for my actions and the unforgivable harm I’ve caused. I betrayed myself, my family, my friends, the hard-working people and patrons of Balliceaux and humanity as a whole. There is no excuse."

In addition to his resignation from Balliceaux, Bopst will no longer work as Calendar Editor at Style Weekly, a Richmond-based alt-weekly.

"In response to several inquiries, Chris Bopst was an independent contractor for Style Weekly who is no longer providing services," Style posted on Facebook.

Bopst addressed the controversy Monday. He said it was never his intention to dress in blackface for Halloween.

"I usually dress as a clown [for Halloween]. I had black face paint, that was on. That was all that we had, so I used black face paint. I knew that it would be wrong to do it, I should have stopped myself from doing it, but I did not think about it. Because I wasn't thinking," he said. "I am profoundly saddened and disgusted with myself, for, all my life's work is gone. I am forever now Chris Bopst the racist. And that [racism] is what I've spent my life trying to fight."

Bopst said the swift social media reaction to his post has him fearing for the safety of his family and former co-workers at Balliceaux.

"I can't allow my regrettable actions to hurt good people [at Balliceaux]," he said. "I never thought that I would be in this position, but my careless actions caused this. I hope the discussion of racism continues until, at some point, we are truly in a racially equal society."

Earlier on Monday he posted a public apology on Facebook.

"I want to apologize to everyone I offended. I deeply regret any pain I caused for my actions," his initial public apology post read.

As the discussion continued online about his actions and explanations, Bopst later posted a longer apology.

"I seriously screwed up. I would like to apologize to humanity for my failure as a human being. Recently, I wore a black face clown outfit thinking I was being thought-provoking and funny. It wasn’t until I woke up Sunday morning that I realized how seriously wrong I was," he wrote in a public Facebook post."Since then, I’ve experienced an acute moral revulsion with myself that I can’t accurately describe. It’s a queasy sickness; an all-composing sense of regret twisting and turning in my stomach. All I know is that I deserve it.

"In writing this, I want in no way to absolve myself of my actions. People have every right to be angry; I am disgusted with myself and I will be for the rest of my life. I will never stop being ashamed.

"I’ve demeaned myself, my family and all those close to me. No apology will ever be enough."

Hundreds of people, like Samantha Willis, tried to make sense of his actions.

"I really wanted to understand why," Willis said.  "You don't have to be African American to be super offended by this, it's racist behavior that has no place in modern American society."

Willis wrote more about the topic in a piece titled "My take: Why is blackface back again?" on Richmond Magazine.

This is a developing story.