Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Minstrelcy of Alpha Sigma Delta*

A while ago, I commented on a phenomenon that was sweeping across campuses of America: racially offensive parties. These would be celebrations of ghetto life or the Latino experience in America. I use the celebrations in the lightest sense possible, as should be recognized from the context of the paragraph.

At these parties, white kids show up in what amount to caricatures of the racial groups of America. Tim Wise, over at the Black Agenda Report, comments on the phenomenon further. For the record, he is a white guy who is offended by the phenomenon, but he blames the problem on something larger than the fact that these kids who find this acceptable are idiots, as proven by the following quote:

[C]onsider the internet posting of a University of Texas law student, who didn't participate in last year's "ghetto fabulous" party, but who found more fault with those critiquing it, than those who threw it in the first place:

"Get over it. You were offended. You complained...Prolonging the drama only makes you look like attention whores - you aren't trying to educate people, and you aren't trying to create an atmosphere of inclusion, where people can understand your point of view. You want to continue to spank the naughty 1Ls. The Dean gave you recognition. Everyone in the law school received that email. Do you honestly think that prolonging the drama is going to do anything productive?

And for the record, equating ghetto fabulous with blackface is really fucking stupid."

Wise actually blames the colleges and society for not discussing the power relations that exist between groups more than the fact that we have all been taught for years now that we are equal. The ghetto is not just some space where a lot of people have chosen to live. It is a prison created by society, infested with predatory people trying to juice the neighborhood of its vitality and soul.

It's a compelling read, something that all of the kids who think that painting yourself black and mocking Black culture or dressing like a Latin maid is amusing.

*Alpha Sigma Delta is the first string of greek letters I could come up with. I was trying to spell out ass, but it wasn't going to work because sigma is an Σ. Additionally, I reference the greeks because this is the primary places where these parties are happening. I expressly note at this time that this is not meant to be a slap at the more responsible greek organizations who actually maintain high standards and help to further a community of togetherness, as antithetical as that may be to the actual mission of a fraternity or sorority given the need for members to satisfy an ideal rather than express a straight sense of independence and defiance. And, yes, that was a slap at greek life, but not for blackface, but for being breeding grounds of conformity. While there is the argument that brotherhood is not conformity, is there not a sense of conformity required to become a member of that brotherhood? A conformity to the traditions and institutions of that fraternity? By accepting the principles and wants of the fraternity/sorority as well as suffering through rushing (they aren't as rough as they used to be, but it is still presenting a willingness to subscribe to the principles of the greek organization), aren't I not quite blatantly ascribing to a set of principles? The last time I checked, that's conforming ergo joining a greek organization requires conformity.