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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Watermelons, white folks and wackness: How ASU frat’s tomfoolery is more of the same old, same old

    For some reason, everyone assumes that costume parties are only for Halloween. Fortunately, the students of ASU’s Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity know only lame-os think like that, which is why they decided to have a Martin Luther King Jr. Day party.

    Knowing they attend a university that has high standards when it comes to costume innovation — let’s not forget the student who pioneered the brilliant Halloween costume of “naked herself” — these TKE bros decided they would figure out a way to dress as black stereotypes. Their challenge? Do it without blackface.

    At least that’s the scenario we’ve chosen to imagine that led to a bunch of white kids throwing gang signs in their finest basketball jerseys and getting schwasted out of watermelon cups. It’s entirely possible the brothers just watched a couple of minstrel shows for inspiration.

    Sure, it’s easy to look at this behavior and say, “Well, that’s racist.” But it’s more important that we articulate why.

    One of The State Press’s columns about the school’s most recent fiasco asks us to believe that it’s not because of ASU’s actions.

    “The larger culture that tells young men that this kind of activity is acceptable is to blame for this terrible idea,” Becca Smouse writes.

    Frat bros, though, are not influenced by some weighty cultural milieu as much as they are by the cloistered — and likely not very diverse — houses they belong to, and the universities that allow traditions of privilege to continue.

    Many of those who have already written about the party have taken issue with its participants “mocking” black people. This judgment, though, seriously overestimates the self-awareness of the party-goers.

    Underneath the Instagram photos of the gathering being plastered all over the web lurks “#blackoutformlk.” The hashtag reveals the real purpose of the party as a sick tribute — probably the worst attempt at fulfilling community service hours ever made by white men and women, who seem to have no idea how ignorant it is to try on another race, just for a day, only to toss it aside the next, privilege left untouched.

    By making them into a costume, these students are telling the world they consider black people jokes, playthings, novelties.

    There’s no acknowledgment on the wearers’ behalf that they’re having all the fun of an identity, with none of the strife. There’s barely acknowledgment of anything.

    It’s especially insulting that TKE’s ignorance was so amplified on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday celebration of the man who brought black oppression to the attention of white America.

    Apparently, we’ve forgotten.

    If the TKE bros had a wider worldview, they would have been horrified at their own actions. Of course, that could be difficult at ASU. Data compiled in 2012 shows that ASU’s undergraduate population is only about 31.7 percent minority student. The university also awarded a mere 605 degrees to African American students in 2011.

    Any college is shirking its responsibilities if it is not encouraging exposure for its students, nearly forcing them to crash into and confront new and difficult issues.

    ASU can certainly be blamed for not meeting its end of the bargain here, especially as a university that has dedicated itself to matching the diversity of its student body to the socioeconomic statistics of Arizona.

    Instead, the university is allowing like to stick to like, bro to stick to bro. It’s “come as you are,” but only if you’re a racist turd.

    But we’re not suggesting, as The State Press might be concerned, that “ASU is the only school with this sort of atmosphere.” No, we can see systems of privilege enforced in all of the racist college parties that have been popping up in the news lately. Even UA students thought it necessary to pit CMT and BET against each other at a party. It may have been easier to just theme it “White vs. Black.”

    These actions may not be sending the right message to our own paltry 36.3 percent minority population.

    ASU has suspended TKE, but that doesn’t really change anything. As long as the frat, and college systems, only partially prop the door open for minority students, we’ll keep hearing about ignorant, racist college behavior that riles us up. The bros refuse to leave their conclaves of privilege, and they’ve been told by the system that this is allowed. We shouldn’t have to enter their bro caves to bring them news of the outside world — not that we were invited.

    Katelyn Kennon is a journalism and creative writing junior. Follow her @DailyWildcat.
    David W. Mariotte is a journalism and GWS sophomore. He contributed to this article.

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