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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Black’ theme party elicits concerned response

    As the UA campus enters Black History Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the history and progress of black people in America, a recent “”black”” party has given the UA community not a reason to celebrate but rather a reason for concern.

    More than a dozen UA students spent this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at a controversial party, which mirrored similar student parties held across the nation.

    While many UA students condemned the party, the UA student who threw the party, agricultural education sophomore Kyle Kuechel, said the party was not intended to be offensive.

    “”In order to come, you had to dress as your favorite black person,”” Kuechel said. “”Two people were dressed as lawyers, and two from ‘Family Matters.'””

    An image posted on the social networking Web site Facebook shows partygoers dressed in do-rags and fur coats with black-painted faces.

    After being invited, pre-business freshman Brianna Tarleton and a friend inquired as to the meaning of a “”black”” party.

    “”My friend asked, ‘How would you do that?’ (Kuechel) said, ‘You know, dress up like gangsters, pimps and hos,'”” Tarleton said.

    Bothered by what she said was her first encounter with racism, Tarleton posted a note on Facebook describing her experience.

    The posting, which elicited many responses condemning the party as “”racist”” and “”ignorant,”” also resulted in an apology from one of the party attendees, Tarleton said.

    “”He said, ‘We thought we were being funny,'”” she said.

    Kuechel said four of the 15 partygoers were black and were not offended by the party.

    “”The Facebook posting was a big misunderstanding and (Tarleton) doesn’t know me or any of the attendees,”” Kuechel said.

    But university administrators said they are concerned.

    After learning of the “”black”” party through other UA administrators, the African-American Student Association began working with UA departments in an effort to express their concern, said Cynthia Quijada, the interim co-director of African-American Student Affairs.

    “”African-Americans were depicted in exaggerated dress and behavior for the enjoyment of others,”” Quijada said. “”The party is completely unjustifiable. There should be some level of accountability.””

    Tarleton said she does not want the partygoers to be punished, but hopes they realize there are consequences to their actions.

    “”I just hope it opens up their eyes to what’s racist and how it can affect others,”” Tarleton said.

    In the weeks following this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, several news sources reported similar parties held by students at other universities, including Tarleton State University, the University of Connecticut and Clemson University.

    “”This type of behavior is not a new trend,”” Quijada said. “”I have read and heard about it in the past with other universities and colleges across the country. It is unfortunate and sad that it still persists today.””

    Education is the key to combating these entrenched stereotypes, said Celestino Fernandez, a sociology professor who teaches Ethnic Relations in the United States.

    “”It is unfortunate that it occurs on a college campus because we are supposed to be an educated population,”” Fernandez said.

    The black, non-Hispanic population at the UA accounts for 2.8 percent of all enrolled students, according to the 2005-06 Fact Book published by the UA Office of Institutional Research and Evaluation.

    Much has changed since the 1950s, but skin color and race still matter a great deal in this country, Fernandez said.

    “”We continue to look at each other’s skin color and make all kinds of assumptions based on that, instead of as Dr. Martin Luther King would have us do,”” Fernandez said. “”That is, to understand the content of our character.””

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