Too Racist? Or Too Stupid?
January 25, 2007 6:37 PM   Subscribe

The grinning mugs of students at Tarleton State University in Texas and the University of Connecticut School of Law are gracing the pages of The Smoking Gun, where they stand accused of racial insensitivity. Is this passive-aggressive racial stereotyping? Simple stupidity? Or can we call this parody and laugh it off?
posted by krippledkonscious (106 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
While some argue that this is a side effect of activism out of control, it is hard to make excuses for poor judgement (and then documenting it on the web). What does not help the Tarleton students is the fact that the party was held over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, and in either case, it should have been recognized that there has been scrutiny on these types of events since a Johns Hopkins Halloween party was similarly condemned last year. While it is easy to write these incidents off as pure racism, we might reflect on other stereotypes and how we judge them to be harmful and/or innocuous[Google video].
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:37 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


People are so fucking stupid. What the hell were they thinking? It's like those morons in the Borat movie.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:44 PM on January 25, 2007


Ugh. These folks deserve public humiliation, at a minimum. And if the school wants to put them on probation or time out or whatever, that's good too.

MLK Day != the time to promote negative racial stereotypes.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:48 PM on January 25, 2007


You should see how they celebrate Pearl Harbor Day.
posted by ColdChef at 6:49 PM on January 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


Simple stupidity?

See, this is how stupidity wins. Everyone underestimates it's power until someone is hanging from a tree, or shooting Sikhs because they think they're terrorists, or making policy decisions about whether you get a bank loan or not.

The "black culture" title pisses me off. Under that logic, a celebration of white culture would be genocide and war.
posted by yeloson at 6:50 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno, when we celebrated Yom Kippu by dressing in hook noses and clutching bags of diamonds, nobody complained. Can't wait till St. Paddy's Day! I'm going to get drunk and blow up a car!
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:51 PM on January 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


What, it's not called Yom Kippu?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:51 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm really trying to manufacture some outrage at this, but...nope. Just dumbasses at a party. Plus, 40s can really make you do stupid things.

(BTW, do black people ever, oh...I don't know...dress up in clothes from the Banana Republic, drink Guinness, and talk about NASCAR?)
posted by ColdChef at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2007


(BTW, do black people ever, oh...I don't know...dress up in clothes from the Banana Republic, drink Guinness, and talk about NASCAR?)

Aren't those two separate stereotypes, i.e. rich whites and poor whites?
posted by delmoi at 6:58 PM on January 25, 2007


(BTW, do black people ever, oh...I don't know...dress up in clothes from the Banana Republic, drink Guinness, and talk about NASCAR?)

Soon.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:59 PM on January 25, 2007


deez nigguz needz to git a life, fo shiz.
posted by quonsar at 7:02 PM on January 25, 2007


drinking 40z, wearing bandanas, making hand gestures, eating fried chicken.

if you think only blacks do it, then you're a racist.

ignorance comes in all colours.
posted by jcterminal at 7:02 PM on January 25, 2007


Law students act like douchebags. Film at 11.
posted by facetious at 7:03 PM on January 25, 2007


Aren't those two separate stereotypes, i.e. rich whites and poor whites?

Well, sure. Deliberately. Inasmuch as these frat kids were dressed as Aunt Jemima and gang members.
posted by ColdChef at 7:03 PM on January 25, 2007


I should also note that my favorite party of the entire year involves friends in blackface chunking spears at people, wearing grass skirts and making "Ooga-booga" noises at each other. People drink 40oz beers, eat fried chicken, and make fun of all kinds of African racial stereotypes.

It's called the Zulu Parade.
posted by ColdChef at 7:07 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this passive-aggressive racial stereotyping? Simple stupidity? Or can we call this parody and laugh it off?

Perhaps we should realize that it's none of our business, and ignore it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:08 PM on January 25, 2007


While I'd not attend nor organize such a party, as I don't imagine I'd find a full night of racial stereotyping very amusing, even while drunk(though a look through the pictures gave me a few chuckles), I don't see the real harm here.

I mean, yeah, doing it on MLK day was super insensitive, and posting pictures of it that were publicly accessible was super boneheaded, it's not as if these people were treating these stereotypes with the fervent trust that actual racists do. They were making fun of and having fun with the stereotypes, same as Borat or what have you, except much more cliched and sad.
posted by TypographicalError at 7:11 PM on January 25, 2007


Or can we call this parody and laugh it off?

Parody: Yes.

Laughing: No.

They're idiots. Humour makes parody acceptable, otherwise it's just stupid. Being funny is what separates Sasha Baron Cohen from the bajillions of idiots out there: he's funny. These people: lame.
posted by GuyZero at 7:13 PM on January 25, 2007


Things like this and American Idol make me want to punch America in the face.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:21 PM on January 25, 2007


I say let's play by their rules -- they want to play the blacks, we'll play the whites. let's lynch those assholes, see how they like it
posted by matteo at 7:22 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hypothetically...

Suppose, you were going to make a Halloween costume that was anti-racist in intent: one that mocked racial stereotypes. Further suppose that you're white. What are the distinguishing features of this laudable costume from the costumes being condemned here?

Are white people only allowed to dress as white stereotypes (NASCAR &c. as mentioned above) if they want to make fun of racism?
posted by Richard Daly at 7:22 PM on January 25, 2007


Fucking morons.
posted by serazin at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2007


You'd think that people doing this sort of thing would know better than to take pictures of themselves in this post-Abu Ghraib world... Even putting community insensitivity aside, these "parties" look lame as hell.
posted by clevershark at 7:27 PM on January 25, 2007



Things like this and American Idol make me want to punch America in the face.


Wasn't American Idol based on a hugely successful program run by Simon Cowell in the U.K.? Since we're talking of stereotypes...
posted by spicynuts at 7:31 PM on January 25, 2007


I was going to come in here and preemptively comment about the inevitable line: "you're the real racists for assuming they were being racists" but jcterminal got there first. Way to go.

Also, my heart breaks a little more for the fact that one is drinking Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, which is too good a beer for an asshole like that.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:32 PM on January 25, 2007


Pathetic losers, I hope one day they are ashamed of themselves, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Falconetti at 7:35 PM on January 25, 2007


What, no pot!?

Lame party.
posted by ageispolis at 7:38 PM on January 25, 2007


I think there's a difference between the first and second party. In the second, the theme was supposedly "bubbly and bullets," which isn't specifically race-related (no more than the common "pimps and hoes" party), and the pictures seem to follow that theme.

In the first party, though, the theme was apparently "MLK", and they could have maybe claimed that was just the date, and there was a non-racial theme, except that the photos make it clear that everyone was told to dress up as a racial stereotype.
posted by scottreynen at 7:39 PM on January 25, 2007


These pictures make Eminem cry.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:45 PM on January 25, 2007


The Tarleton party is is all over the news in Houston. The official line is that the school is looking to see if the students broke any regulations, perhaps leading to suspensions. If they didn't break any regs, they will be "strongly condemned" for this.

The guy in the third picture from the Tarleton party is flashing the Vulcan gang sign. So not only are they bigots, they're bigots on an intergalactic scale!!!one1!
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:50 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the pictures from Uconn look much more rap/ganster related, which don't seem racist in the least. The Tarleton pictures are very offensive, but the Uconn ones seem to be on a different level.
posted by null terminated at 7:53 PM on January 25, 2007


I got the order wrong in my question. What I should have asked is, "If white people want to make fun of racism are they only allowed to dress as white stereotypes?" and it's an honest question.
posted by Richard Daly at 7:58 PM on January 25, 2007


I went to a "dress as your favorite black person" party maybe twenty years ago, but of course, I went to school in Texas so there you go. (There were a lot of Arthur Ashes, which made costuming much easier - remember, this was pre-Tiger Woods). Yeah, it was certainly "racist", since the whole humor (such as it was) was race-driven, but I didn't think it was malicious then, and I don't think this kind of stuff is now. No more so than any other "dress as X" party where the intent is more to make your friends laugh then to actually make a statement of belief about any particular target.

And ColdChef, I once caught a coconut thrown from a float at the Zulu Parade. It didn't make it home, though - later that night I gave it to a girl who - well, showed me something.
posted by yhbc at 8:06 PM on January 25, 2007


You should see how they celebrate Pearl Harbor Day.

They dress in lederhosen with SS regalia and feast upon bratwurst?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:09 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


i'm bored by frat party pictures, so i didn't flip through them all, but it looks to me that it's just a bunch of college kids looking to have a good time. i think the black gansta rap stereotype is ripe for the picking, but aunt jo ... that wasn't a good idea. at least i didn't see any obvious slave masters.

i could actually imagine going to a party like this back when i did things like that. but, judging from the pictures, it looks like i would have been bored.

too bad they didn't invite any actual black people.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:11 PM on January 25, 2007


White people really should leave racial slurs that have been used by white people against other people the hell alone.

It's an issue of power and privilege which can be summed up as 'Just because Chris Rock says it doesn't mean you can too.'
posted by winna at 8:11 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Beyond the obvious annoyance with the dumbasses in the photos, one might ponder the culpability of those who market such images to suburban white kids, who were probably paying homage to something sold to them as cool, as opposed to it being "lol niggers".
It wasn't so long ago that white kids were running around with "X" hats, and red black and green medallions, and even if most of them didn't really get it, well, it was better than where we're at right now.
posted by 2sheets at 8:15 PM on January 25, 2007


passive-aggressive racial stereotyping?

No.

Simple stupidity?

Yes.

Or can we call this parody and laugh it off?

Yes.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2007


I hope these guys have at least more than one African American professor. It would be a shame if he or she gave them a bad grade just for this, but the dread they'd have to feel (especially the law students who are going to need rec letters) would be palpable.

And delicious.

And as much as these stupid bigots deserve the shaming they're getting, realize that this type of stuff goes on all the time. I went to grad. school at the University of Virginia, an institution that deservedly prides itself on its solid rep for academics. All-white frats did this type of shit all the time, and when anyone called them on it, they told their fellow students to stop being such fucking sensitive pc nazis.

Kind of like mefi.
posted by bardic at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm torn between which party was worse than the other.

On one hand, Tarleton had worse costumes, but on the other, UConn had uglier girls. It's a toss up, really.
posted by christonabike at 8:28 PM on January 25, 2007


Young white people would mock black culture because black culture is a testament to the fact that opportunity is granted, not self-determined. This subconsciously makes them nervous, so some of the wannabes find ways to separate themselves culturally. They often agree with conservatives for no personal reasons other than to deny that we're potentially all economic slaves.
posted by Brian B. at 8:31 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think I've told this story here before, but I'll tell it again:

When I was in college, I dated a girl who was friends with a bunch of fraternity guys (I wasn't in a fraternity, though I held no real opinion of those who were). Every year, this frat threw an "Old South" party, where they dressed up like Confederate soldiers and their dates dressed in ante-bellum style dresses.

They rented out a hall at a local hotel and had a cotillion dance. There were Confederate flags everywhere and they played mostly country music.

Yes, it was as lame as it sounds.

I remember leaving the "Old South" ballroom to go to the bathroom and on my way back, I ran into a black girl I went to high school with. She was there at the hotel for a cousin's wedding. I explained to her what kind of party I was at and she wanted to see it. I walked her inside and she fell out laughing.

"It's just so...sad." she told me. About twenty minutes later, she came back in with some friends and they all had a good laugh (the DJ had switched to "party" music by then, so there was some serious honkey shuffling going on.) She invited me back to the wedding party, so my date and I skipped out and had a good time with her family.

I'll never forget, though, the sheepish look on the faces of the "Old South Soldiers" as they had to carry their rebel flags back to their cars in a parking lot full of black people.
posted by ColdChef at 8:33 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


UConn had uglier girls.

Excuse me. They prefer to be called "bitches." Or probably "bee-yotches."
posted by ColdChef at 8:35 PM on January 25, 2007


bardic's "stop being such fucking sensitive pc nazis" works for me. can't we tone the racial sturm und drang down to a dull roar? they're just parties! find something important to complain about.
posted by bruce at 8:36 PM on January 25, 2007


Can't wait till St. Paddy's Day! I'm going to get drunk and blow up a car!

can't you just put a potato in the tailpipe?
posted by pyramid termite at 8:37 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, if it wasn't for a few select things (Aunt Jemima, especially), they'd just look like the wanna-be-black white kids here in Vancouver.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:38 PM on January 25, 2007


If these are our best and brightest, it's no wonder things are fucked up.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:42 PM on January 25, 2007


I wonder what a Venn diagram consisting of community college students, future lawyers, and "our best and brightest" would look like.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:49 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


White people throwing blackface parties thrown on MLK day?

bruce, you're an idiot.

Not like I expect all of white America to stay indoors and flagellate themselves, but throwing and/or going to a party like this is worthy of the shame and possible academic penalties these guys are facing. Probably a few career ones as well, especially for the law students I imagine.
posted by bardic at 8:50 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Throw" is my new favorite word, if you couldn't tell. But I don't think I mangled my point too badly.
posted by bardic at 8:52 PM on January 25, 2007


White people really should leave racial slurs that have been used by white people against other people the hell alone.

It's an issue of power and privilege


winna nails it.

These are not "wannabes" appropriating a culture they find cool and fascinating. This is a group of all white college students who thought dressing up like black people would be fun, because black people to them are just charicatures and stereotypes. African-Americans are Aunt Jemima and "gangstas", they're a disposable party theme, not human beings who don't all fit the stereotypical mold. It's the same to them as dressing up like "your favorite Star Wars character", and it's dehumanizing.
posted by smashingstars at 8:54 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's the same to them as dressing up like "your favorite Star Wars character", and it's dehumanizing.

It's like how when you dress like Chewbacca, it's dewookieizing.
posted by ColdChef at 8:58 PM on January 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


no bardic, you're the idiot. academic penalties? career penalties? you'd have to be on drugs to suspect something like that. naturally all the pc handwringers are het up and in full cry, but they'll get over it. there's a great big wide america out there that doesn't give a damn about what people do at their parties. find your sense of humor and move on.
posted by bruce at 8:59 PM on January 25, 2007


going to a party like this is worthy of the shame and possible academic penalties these guys are facing.

You really think that universities, especially state universities should impose academic sanctions for this sort of thing?
posted by Kwantsar at 8:59 PM on January 25, 2007


I am amazed that anyone is confused that this was racism.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:59 PM on January 25, 2007


...they're just parties!

Maybe you could say that if it were any other day but doing on MLK day is a pretty deliberate provocation. These kids weren't just doing this for fun, they were trying to assholes.
posted by octothorpe at 9:01 PM on January 25, 2007


I have previously observed that Google Image Search for gang signs turns up almost exclusively groups of white kids acting stupid.
posted by dhartung at 9:01 PM on January 25, 2007


As has been said before, there's a difference between the two parties. UConn's seemed like a Pimps and Hoes party, laughing at gangsta culture from all sides, and far more good natured than the cliched, bullshit, straight-up gleeful racism of the Terleton party. I lived the first fifteen years of my life in and around Houston. These fuckers are racist, and ignorant to boot.

In either case, they have the right to do whatever stupid shit they want to at a party, but these two things aren't in the same league.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:03 PM on January 25, 2007


If they eat fried chicken at parties mocking Black History Month, do they serve dormice at toga parties? Yuck.

Here's a test for whether these kids knew they were being racist: if Bernie Casey and the rest of the Tri-Lams were to file in, would they drop their syrup and bling and run for the hills? You bet your ass they would.

They only do it because they know they can get away with it.
posted by breezeway at 9:07 PM on January 25, 2007


Really? Having pictures of yourself dressed like Aunt Jemima published on the internet will have no affect on whether or not future employers will hire you (or more likely, take you on as an intern in the case of college and law students)?

You're right bruce -- these kids are all on the fast-track to Rhodes scholarships now.

Why is it so hard to realize that if you act like a racist jerk, even if deep down you aren't a racist jerk, people will judge you to be a racist jerk, and this will have affects on your social and professional life?
posted by bardic at 9:07 PM on January 25, 2007


I would hate to be judged for the rest of my life for things I did at college parties.

And I did much worse than this. Much worse.
posted by ColdChef at 9:09 PM on January 25, 2007


Which is why we never allowed cameras at ours. In terms of life, it's called a stupidity tax. Going to a blackface party on MLK day is pretty high up the list of "things I will regret someday," deservedly so.
posted by bardic at 9:12 PM on January 25, 2007


*"never allowed" makes it seem like some hard and fast rule. More like, "Dude, we're doing some stupid and/or illegal shit here why the fuck do you have a camera?"

It amazes me that anti-pc Culture Warriors are so quick to condemn how racially sensitive we have become/are supposed to be, and yet, it's really simple -- don't do flagrantly offensive shit like this, and if you must, don't document the proceedings. And if you're too dumb to realize this, be prepared to suffer the consequences, academic, social, professional, and otherwise.

If I drive drunk, I might kill someone and end up in jail, so I make it a point never to drive drunk. If I go to a blackface party on Martin F'ing Luther King Day, I might just piss some people off.
posted by bardic at 9:15 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


If I drive drunk, I might kill someone and end up in jail, so I make it a point never to drive drunk. If I go to a blackface party on Martin F'ing Luther King Day, I might just piss some people off.

Those two things are exactly the same.

Martin Fucking Luther King? That might piss some people off, too. Just saying.
posted by ColdChef at 9:20 PM on January 25, 2007


in summary:

college kids act like idiots, film at 11
pc crowd overreacts, film at 11
posted by keswick at 9:20 PM on January 25, 2007


I meant Fracking. What, are you anti-nerd ColdChef?
posted by bardic at 9:22 PM on January 25, 2007


You know, I just realized that I'm jumping to the defense of some chuckleheads who posted their lame ass party pictures online.

Let me restate my postion: party up, people. Have a good time, don't hurt other people. Make fun of whatever culture you want to at your own party. But don't be a racist asshole. Embrace the contradictions.
posted by ColdChef at 9:25 PM on January 25, 2007


I am anti-nerd. Me and my black friends throw a party every year on Stephen Hawking's birthday. You don't want to see those pictures.
posted by ColdChef at 9:27 PM on January 25, 2007


bardic, if you get mostly a's and make law review, you'll be able to write your own ticket when you get out - even if you sleep in a coffin during the daytime. i know a little about the legal market, i was there once. i hate to puncture your wishful thinking bubble, but this is a non-event for them, careerwise.
maybe they weren't acting like racist jerks, maybe they were trying to honor black culture when they accidentally offended your exquisite sensibilities. the irish don't mind if you get drunk in an irish bar on march 17. the mexicans don't mind if you swill margaritas and scarf mexican food on may 5. only one italian has ever objected to me singing verdi in public on october 12, but the others backed me. blacks will be fully integrated into our society when they can watch non-blacks celebrating their culture without getting offended.
posted by bruce at 9:31 PM on January 25, 2007


bruce, it would also help if those 'celebrating' culture could tell the difference between a pimp 'n' ho costume or an aunt jo costume.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 9:43 PM on January 25, 2007


'pimp and ho' costume and an aunt jo.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 9:47 PM on January 25, 2007


if you get mostly a's and make law review, you'll be able to write your own ticket when you get out

I sincerely doubt this. The top jobs, especially in law, are incredibly competitive to get. Something like this could derail a career, or at least hamper one.

Blacks are already "integrated" into our society if you didn't notice. It's illegal to not hire someone because they're black. They hardly need the approbation of someone like you. That said, it's perfectly legal to think, gee, Joe Smith here might have good grades, but his inability to display a solid sense of judgement is not something I want in my law firm/widget factory/McDonald's, what have you.

As for "their culture," I can assure you that Aunt Jemima was not an organic out-growth of native black culture. That's the whole point of blackface, dipstick -- it's a white version of how black people are supposed to act. And yeah, I find it deeply offensive. More to the point, my inner capitalist thinks that hiring someone who doesn't understand why this is stupid is not someone I'd want to work for, with, or under.

So it's win/win for pc'ness, which you're free to ignore, but also for common sense, which you aren't.
posted by bardic at 9:49 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


You're anti-nerd? Bernie and the Tri-Lams are coming for you, too. You better run.
posted by breezeway at 10:08 PM on January 25, 2007


Something like this could derail a career, or at least hamper one.

let's not be so dramatic ... first of all, there's no names attached to those photographs ... there's also no way i know of to search for a person's face on the internet ... there's also good reason to doubt that people are going to look that similar after 5 years or so ... and there's always the doubt, even at the same law school, that there might be another student that looks like someone else

and then, let's face it, there are law firms where those hiring might find this amusing ... you don't think that people come up with this sort of behavior in a social vacuum, do you?

sure, the question "isn't that YOU in this photograph?" could be embarrassing and awkward professionally, if it's ever asked ... but it probably won't be

then there's the question of the colleges giving them disciplinary action for this ... frankly, i think we should be reluctant to clamor for this, as we should be reluctant to give any entity power to discipline people over minor "offenses" such as drinking a 40 oz beer in a paper bag at a party while having a do-rag around one's head ... just remember, if they're going to get called out for that sort of thing, someone on our side of the political spectrum could be next because they "offended" conservatives by attending a party where, say, mock marriages were held between gay people, or people came as famous televangelists, or members of the bush administration

yeah, i can just see the hue and cry among some if a guy showed up at a democratic party with a straw up his nose and a whiskey bottle in his hand pretending to be george w bush ... and the "young republicans" demanded that the college discipline him

people have the right to be stupid and offensive ... among other reasons, it makes them so much easier to identify and avoid
posted by pyramid termite at 10:27 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would just like to say that I don't see why eating fried chicken is considered a negative racial stereotype. Fried chicken is good. Why is it bad to like fried chicken? If someone said to me right now, "you look like the type of person who eats fried chicken," I would not be offended. I would say, "yes, yes I do."

I wish I had some fried chicken right now.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:42 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


On St. Patrick's Day, people go out and get drunk on awful green beer, sing Danny Boy, and generally act like assholes, albeit jovial ones. This for a holiday around the patron saint of Ireland.

On Cinco de Mayo, people go out and get drunk on Tecate and Corona, sing La Bamba, and generally act like assholes, albeit jovial ones. This celebrates Mexican Independence.

On Columbus Day, well, some people get off work, NY Italians get a parade, and some people sing Verdi apparently. This celebrates Italian-American history through a celebration of a Spanish guy and a Portugese voyage, I guess.

On MLK day, some assholes from Houston dressed up in black-face and Aunt Jemima costumes, ate fried chicken, and generally acted like assholes. This on a day to celebrate a leader who, in recent memory, was assassinated for trying to peacefully fight for black American's civil rights.

There's context and tone here. The Irish are the single most successful group of immigrants in American history, and so absorbed into the ethnic norm that they truly face no real persecution today. They're at the forefront of people partying on St. Patrick's day, and everyone has fun, because no one is offended.

On Cinco de Mayo, Mexican-Americans party for their own day, and others join them as an excuse to party, and eat Mexican food and drink Mexican drinks and sing Mexican songs and again, no one's offended.

On Columbus Day, well, I live in NY and don't know anyone who isn't Italian who celebrates it, so I don't know what to say.

On MLK day, a group of whites have a party specifically to relive black stereotypes, and it's just different. This was designed to be shitty. If there had been even one black in the photos, I might think differently, but of course these kids would've balked at any African Americans walking through the door.

Like I've said above, let college assholes be college assholes, but don't compare it to celebrating traditional holidays in traditional ways. This was racisim for fun.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:36 PM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


bruce: maybe they were trying to honor black culture when they accidentally offended your exquisite sensibilities.

Are you serious? Show me a black community where celebrating MLK day entails putting on gold fronts and eating friend chicken. And: what these kids did is more akin to showing up to a Cinco de Mayo party wearing a sombrero and talking like the Taco Bell chihuahua than drinking margaritas. I hope you know that, though, and are are just being an assbrero? [or: sombrerass]
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:48 PM on January 25, 2007


I had to say this. I'm sorry because I only made it about halfway down the comments page before I got incensed and had to make this point. I'm sorry because, in all likelihood, somebody has already made this point previously. I'm sorry because I knew that I would have to make this point before I even clicked on any of the links. I'm sorry in a dad-shaking-his-head kind of way that I have to make this point to people who are otherwise well-informed, well-intentioned, and, well, well-thinking. But I still had to make this point.

Most of the discussion has, directly or indirectly, focussed around whether or not it is appropriate for white folks to ironically confront "racial stereotypes." These idiots in the pictures are either racist, racist-but-harmless, ironically blowing open racial stereotypes, or merely having a very ignorant theme-party. They've been called out on each of these points. Some members called them idiots for posting the photos online. Some called them idiots, posted-photos aside. Some of our more enlightened members patted themselves on the back for not even seeing racism in these pictures..."All I see is a woman dressed in an apron, holding a bottle of Aunt Jemima and a 40 in a paper bag; you see some racist stereotypes. I didn't even know those things were supposed to be racist. Now who's the bigot?" And good for you (especially you latter folk, who are so unracist that you don't even see a racist stereotype when you see one.)

What really gets to me, though, is that everybody assumes that that's all there is to racism --- racial stereotypes. This is the implicit assumption: that the worst thing that confronts blacks is a supposed preference for malt liquor, fried chicken, and, if we really want to get off the hook, waltermelon. This is what we mean when we say 'racism.' This is at the fucking heart of the core of the centre of all racism, the thing that has relegated an entire people to the class of second class citizens: a supposed love of fried chicken and rap music. And, extrapolating this just a bit further, what what we need to do to stop all of the baseless degradation, subjugation and humiliation of black citizens is to all hold hands and agree that black people don't like chicken, and certainly not of the fried variety. In short, racism is nothing more than a humorous stereotype, and there are no reprocussions to being black except that people might make fun of you for your choices in food and beverage.

Bullshit.

And I say it again: bullshit. It's like saying that the only challenge gays face in modern society is being made fun of for having a lisp. It hurts, and it hurts on a cultural level. Not all gay people have a lisp, you homophobic prick. Now stop perpetuating the stereotype, and gay rights will propsper.

Bullshit.

Now look: I work with actual black youths in an actual low-income community. What you might call a 'ghetto,' or, for those of you who are more down, the 'street'. Bascially, when you talk about blacks getting the short end of the stick, these are the people who have to grab it. They have much deeper problems than anything you could imagine. And I choose my words carefully here: it's not that you refuse to imagine, or don't care to imagine, but simply that you cannot imagine until you see it for yourself. I give you the benefit of the doubt: maybe you don't know. Maybe you thought that the institutionalized racism of the police was something that only occured in Public Enemy songs. Maybe you thought that the only reason that racist cops got away with it was because black youth just didn't think to ask for a badge number. Maybe you just thought that blacks were blaming their inability to get jobs because of their skin colour and address out of a sense of delicate pride and misguided bravado. Maybe you thought that blacks, regardless of their station or status, are simply treated profoundly differently than are whites because...well...well what? Well, Jesus Christ, how could you think that? How could you even think it was the same? How could you think that the shit you read in the papers, see on TV, hear on the radio, see written on the Internet in mock-epic-outraged style was just a kind of stylistic effect? How could you think that bringing a bunch of accidentally (or ironically or intentionally or whatever) racist retards to intellectual judgement would make a dent in the issue? I mean, in our modern age's flurry of enlightened self-righteousness, how could somebody not point out that true, life-altering racism is alive and cooking?

And here it is, the central thust of my otherwise epilectic argument: how could everybody confuse semantics with the bare knuckles reality of racism? The police knock around a good friend of mine, a friend as disconnected from the crack scene as the most respectable member of a Fortune 500 board of directory, because he happened to be black in a neighbourhood where drug activity was rampant. Some retarded Texans, so removed from actual black culture that they had to get their fucking well-worn stereotypes second-hand and third-generation, well, these dickbags are the absolute least of his concerns. Likewise for a guy I know, recently emigrated from Ethiopia with an equivalent high school education, turned down for a job at a local supermarket which was filled (and I know because it's my job to know these openings and they are highly coveted) by two scumbag white folks who both dropped out of high school before it was even legal to do so, and whose sole prior work experience is selling (terrible) weed. No doubt, it is these neutered racist stereotypes --- as far as most middle-class folks understand, the whole of racism --- that kept him down.

The people in these photographs are idiots. Possibly (in fact, almost certainly) racist, possibly severely misguided, certainly ignorant, and certainly idiots. But the natural reaction --- not just of you, I mean, this story has gone international --- is to discuss this in terms of cultural semantics. Are they racist? Yes, probably, but it's a mistake to assume that they are racist solely because some stupid moron dresses like Aunt Jemima with a 40. In fact, it's a mistake to suppose that that same idiot is even important. The problem of Racism --- true, life-altering, life-defining, capital-R Racism --- is so deep and so institutionalized that I almost despair (like most of those whose life it affects) that it will ever be solved.

But I still hold out hope: left with no other option, I have to hold out hope. I have to hold out hope that the reason these injustices are allowed to take root and grow is that, simply, people do not know. That there is, in fact, hope: that right-thinking people have taken this up, that they will fight on behalf of the lepers too condemned to fight for themselves. That they will see racism as an issue that transcends any sort of of abstract or academic cultural criticism issues. That Enlightenment will prevail and Justice will shine the light of Reason into the grubby corners of Self-Righteous society, and one day, maybe one day, I will stop having to capitalise the names of abstract ideals.

And then, some sort of racial conflaguration hits, much like this one (in fact, exactly like this one) and in all the media, I see all kinds of sanctimony and self-congratulations flying around. Racism is over! Equality and egalitarianism is here! It's wrong for for white people to make unironic jokes about black people! Indie rockers are listening to hip hop! Mefiers understand that when a bunch of drunken Texas ballbrains eat friend chicken they are either culture warriors or committing the most offensive crime against humanity imaginable. And either way: we are reaching the end of racism. We must sweep up these dark crumbs of our dark past. Soon, these drunk kids will express more cultural sensitivity, and together, we will walk hand in hand into enlightenment. And then, only then, will we be human.

And here it is: Meanwhile, amidst all this turmoil, my co-worker walks home from work; he's black, and is stopped by two police officers. They ask him what he's doing, and he says he's going home from work. He is stopped, searched, and humiliated for reasons that have nothing to do with his love of fried chicken. A love, incidentally, that we both share, and one that I refuse to apologise for. And it's fortunate that I, respectable white guy, knew him, because if I hadn't run into them in the midst of this completly-unracist encounter, then I, the unironic white guy, wouldn't have been able to vouch for my man, the unironic black guy. And this is true, and this is real. And we didn't crack any racist jokes that night, ironic or otherwise. And I didn't apologise, because there was no reason to, although I felt like I should have. But the moment passed, and I didn't say I was sorry.
posted by Tiresias at 1:46 AM on January 26, 2007 [51 favorites]


@tiresias

That was one of the best comments I've ever read on metafilter. Thank you.
posted by lastobelus at 2:27 AM on January 26, 2007


I wonder if they realize that they just look English?
posted by srboisvert at 2:53 AM on January 26, 2007


So, you're saying a bunch of college students did something stupid? Golly!!!

From the pictures, they were in a private home, not out flouting this in the public, so really, who cares?

There's this great scene from The West Wing, where the the administration is looking a hiring a new personal assistant to the President, who happens to be black. They're wondering about how that'll look, the young black males so actively serving an old white guy.

Eventually, the chief of staff asks the Commander of the Joint Chiefs, who happens to be black, what he thinks about it. The commander asks will they pay him a fair wage? Will they treat him with respect? When the answer is yes, he tells them to leave him alone about this stupid situations, since as an Commander of the Joint Chiefs he has some real battles to fight.

Call me when these kids start lynching blacks or denying qualified applicants jobs or somesuch. In the meantime, remind them that this was stupid and offensive and should in no way be taken seriously and send them to do some volunteer hours with majority black charity group, so they get to work side by side with more positive black role models.

There are large, more important battles to be fought.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:50 AM on January 26, 2007


How can you think that law students embracing racial stereotypes is kids just having fun?
These are the kids that will have to try cases involving black folk, perhaps even folk that dress in the same types of clothing that they wore to a funny party back in college.

Doesn't it follow that if these future lawyers chose certain clothes to represent the "gangsta lifestyle", anytime they see someone dressed in a similar fashion they will have pre-conceived notions about them? Will that color they way they treat these folk in a court of law?

And what happens when these kids become judges? Senators?
posted by gminks at 4:05 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are large, more important battles to be fought

I always thought racism would be defeated by a billion little battles, not a few big ones.
posted by fullerine at 4:20 AM on January 26, 2007


Thank you, Tiresias -- one of the best comments on Metafilter indeed.
posted by suedehead at 4:23 AM on January 26, 2007


It's people like this that make life hard for us white people that like to drink 40s because of the taste.
posted by afu at 4:25 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The whole point of the uproar over this is that those kids see black people as less than human.
posted by konolia at 4:31 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Call me when these kids start lynching blacks or denying qualified applicants jobs or somesuch
by Brandon Blatcher

Honestly? You'd be the very last name to contact on my call list.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:05 AM on January 26, 2007


Call me when these kids start lynching blacks or denying qualified applicants jobs or somesuch
by Brandon Blatcher

Honestly? You'd be the very last name to contact on my call list.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:07 AM on January 26, 2007


sorry for double!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:08 AM on January 26, 2007


Gotta say I'm glad I never got invited to these kinds of parties, though.
posted by pax digita at 5:18 AM on January 26, 2007


Tiresias, your comment is a great example of why i often only just read comments on metafilter.

These pictures are simply a symptom of whatever latent racism that these kids have. The fact that they are in the defacto ruling class is what is most troubling about this.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:05 AM on January 26, 2007


My parents, one from Georgia the other from New Mexico, were raised in racist homes. When my mother was pregnant, she and my father made a conscious decision to make sure they didn't pass that on to me and my brother.

Not for any altruistic reason, or sudden revelation. This was the late 60's and early 70's and they knew that their children would live in a society where we would be exposed to people of every ethnicity. It was the realization that the world they grew up in had changed and they had better change with it.

So we never heard "the N word" or any other racial slur. We went to public schools, with kids of every color and we brought those kids home. My brother dated outside of our religion and my parents never even blinked.

Sorry for the exposition, but all of this is to say - hell yes this party was racist. And you'd better let each and every one of these asshats know that it's wrong and punish them for it. Shame their sorry asses until they realize that this truly is offensive.

My Aunts and Uncles were not as smart as my parents and are still wildly prejudiced, but you'd better believe they don't pull that crap around me or my brother. I've left dinners where the conversation has turned to blatant racist conversation, and I've given smackdowns to many people in my family. It's like a disease, you've got to fight it every time it pops up.
posted by lootie777 at 7:24 AM on January 26, 2007


they didn't even use real malt liquor! just 40oz of regular beers.
posted by ofthestrait at 7:57 AM on January 26, 2007


Donald Ray Elder is doing stand up work for the community, fighting race hate where ever he finds it. These kids should be publicly shamed for the outrage they have perpetrated against people of color. I don't see how they can be allowed to continue their studies - regulations or no regulations. Why, they are almost as evil as the kitty washers in the other thread.
posted by econous at 8:26 AM on January 26, 2007


What no one seems to have picked up on is that in (certain) fratty circles (I'm looking at you Kappa Sigma at Georgia Tech in the 1990s), the "MLK" in their MLK Day parties stood for "Malt Liquor Knockout."

I'm guessing these geniuses used similar reasoning.
posted by likorish at 10:27 AM on January 26, 2007


winna writes "It's an issue of power and privilege which can be summed up as 'Just because Chris Rock says it doesn't mean you can too.'"

Why? 'Cause he's black and "you" isn't? If only we had a word for the concept that only people of certain skin tones are allowed to do certain things.
posted by Mitheral at 10:53 AM on January 26, 2007


That question is answered by the first part of the sentence you quoted.

It's very simple. Because white people shaped stereotypes of people of color as part of a overall cultural process that demeaned and oppressed, the use of those stereotypes is, in part, reinforcing those conceptions of what people of color are like.

Stereotypes are a way of reducing a group of people to a unitary mass that need not be dealt with as individuals, because the person using the stereotypes does not have to do any work to meet those people as individuals. Thinking that all people of color like malt liquor and pancakes means that it's not necessary to find out if Bob in accounting actually likes malt liquor or pancakes. Using those stereotypes to mock Bob the accountant is deploying centuries of hate against him. Does that sound kind of shitty to you? Because it sure does to me.
posted by winna at 11:12 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Agree. How does that change if Bob's race matches his mocker?
posted by Mitheral at 1:36 PM on January 26, 2007


Navelgazer: On Cinco de Mayo, people go out and get drunk on Tecate and Corona, sing La Bamba, and generally act like assholes, albeit jovial ones. This celebrates Mexican Independence.

Mexico's Independence Day is the 16th of September, which is more widely celebrated than Cinco de Mayo. For some reason beer companies decided to push the latter as the Mexican St. Patrick's day. Maybe because it's easier for English speakers to say than "Dieciséis de septiembre."
posted by hydrophonic at 1:56 PM on January 26, 2007


In the process of getting of my Ph.D., I have spent most of the past 15 years on college campuses (4 years undergrad, 9 years grad school). When I entered Brown University as a freshman in 1990, I can recall some ridiculous "political correctness" happening at the time. I remember somebody who complained about a flyer advertising a Halloween party because it had a goblin with a black face on it, even though the goblin wasn't even recognizably human. At that time, I was also a member of the campus branch of the ACLU, which even included some Republican members who wanted to join our opposition to campus speech codes. Since then, I think that the most egregious examples of "political correctness" have been substantially reduced. After seven years of the Bush administration and an insane war in the Middle East, the campus Left has much bigger fish to fry. For this reason, I think the anti-PC backlash has not only jumped the shark, but it has completely outlived its usefulness, except as a tool for right-wingers to depict liberals as shrieking hysterical ninnies who take offense way too easily. Now, I almost never see campus Republicans advocating for expanding free speech on campus, but instead demanding the shutdown of Middle Eastern Studies departments, "monitoring" professors, and demanding quotas for conservatives.

This is why I'm not sympathetic to the anti-PC backlash in this instance. I've been teaching assistant to several hundreds of undergrads at this point. Many are wonderful and very bright, but others can be quite soulless and without consideration for others. I consider the partygoers at UConn and Tarleton in this latter group. These partygoers are not Dave Chappelle and Lenny Bruce, teaching us how to laugh at our silly racial anxieties. Frankly, they're probably not smart enough or funny enough to pull that off.

That being said, I don't think they should be officially punished solely for being racially insensitive. The great tragedy of campus politics is that the activist Left and the frat-boy Right never join together to fight their common enemy, the Administration. On the other hand, they deserve all the social ostracism and negative career consequences they can get. I mean, come on! Law students are especially careerist. How could they not know that getting your picture taken while dressed up like a gangsta rapper and guzzling a 40 doesn't have some effect on your employability?
posted by jonp72 at 2:37 PM on January 26, 2007


I didn't even make the connection of what guns had to do with Black people.

What a bunch of dicks.

*puts on white hood and robe and waits for Bush's birthday to roll around*
posted by hadjiboy at 9:52 PM on January 26, 2007


Tiresias says it all. Great posting.
posted by etaoin at 5:01 AM on January 27, 2007


How can you think that law students embracing racial stereotypes is kids just having fun?

All college students have an element of stupid in them.

Was this offensive? Yes.

Are these kids future racists, who will use their law skills to abuse & demean blacks? MAYBE.

Sometimes college kids do stupid stuff to blow off steam and thumb their noses at society or just because. It doesn't mean they shouldn't be "spanked" and suffer consequences for pulling this crap.

But i'm leery of trying to police every leave move or thought someone make in their private time.

And if they are pure racists, who will abuse or demean blacks whenever they can, what do you suggest we do with them?

I always thought racism would be defeated by a billion little battles, not a few big ones.

Which is why I'm all for assigning these students to work with majority black run charties, specifically those that work with trouble black youth. This way they can see people outside and inside their stereotypes and come away with a hopefully better understanding of black people in general. Messing up their education won't help. Giving them more education might.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 AM on January 27, 2007


Honestly? You'd be the very last name to contact on my call list.

Interesting. Who would be the first 10 people you call?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 AM on January 27, 2007


> Stereotypes are a way of reducing a group of people to a unitary mass that need not be dealt
> with as individuals, because the person using the stereotypes does not have to do any
> work to meet those people as individuals.

Right now there are six and a half billion people you need to meet as individuals, rather than throwing all but a tiny handful of them into some mental mailbox category or other. Ready, set, go. Good luck.
posted by jfuller at 7:38 AM on January 27, 2007


what people do and say when they think no one's looking never ceases to amaze me. that goes for here on the blue, too.
posted by lunachic at 5:22 PM on January 28, 2007


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