I’ve been reading a lot of news reports about a racist party in Delaware. On May 5th, several members of the Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity at the University of Delaware held a racist party in which white students dressed up as stereotypes of Latinos.
The “South of the Border” party held on Cinco de Mayo featured white students with racial epithets on their shirts.
The University of Delaware Campus Alliance de La Raza and the Phi Sigma Pi leadership held a town hall meeting to discuss the impact of this event on students at the university.
These types of racist parties have most likely been held on college campuses for a long time. The creation of Facebook and its ease of photo posting has lead to a more public profile of these awful events.
Racist parties seem to be very trendy amongst white college students. A party seems to draw national attention about once every couple of months. They are happening everywhere.
The cycle of events usually goes like this:
- White students hold a racially themed party (that’s news speak for, a bunch of white students did something overtly racist).
- A party attendee decides to post pictures of the party on Facebook because it was so much fun and they want everyone to see how much fun it was to make fun of people in oppressed groups.
- Another student on Facebook sees the photographs and lets the dean of students, a campus organization of students of color, or another administrator know about the photos.
- An organization of students of color holds a forum to discuss why the party was hurtful, harmful, horrible, etc.
- The president of the university issues a statement saying that the university does not endorse such awful events and that the university is committed to diversity
- News outlets all over the country interview students of color to hear their thoughts regarding the party
- White students apologize saying they did not realize that having a racist party featuring racist epithets and stereotypes would be seen as harmful or bothersome and that the party is not a reflection of their “true” selves. (*Note: Honors students are especially exempt from having any knowledge of systems of oppression, racism, and/or discrimination.)
- Situation over. Apologies have been sent out along with press releases and smiley face stickers. The end.
This bothers me…a lot. I read this particular paragraph on a news site and it really made me think about how the media frames these “parties” and how the university responses are typically portrayed:
Students in the honor society Phi Sigma Pi called it a “South of the Border” party. They dressed as gardeners, Latino names on their front and ethnic slurs on the back. When the photos surfaced, many minority students were outraged.
Okay, but what about white students being outraged? I was very upset when I saw that yet another group of white students had held yet another racist party.
By framing these situations in a way in which folks of color are the only people who get upset by these events, it basically excuses white folks from dealing with their own inner junk as well as working with other white folks to end oppression.
Where are the quotes from white students saying that they are upset and appalled that this happened on their campus?
What kind of message is being sent by the media and university administrators when folks in historically marginalized groups are forced to fight against these injustices?
They might as well be telling their white students that it’s okay to ignore folks of color. Because that is what the underlying message is.
I am a white guy and racism upsets me.