On the night of Jan. 20, Tau Kappa Epsilon, a primarily Caucasian Greek fraternity at ASU, held a Martin Luther King Jr. Day party where the theme was to dress up as stereotypical Black Americans.
The incident provoked various reactions from the public and within hours — some of which described the students as making a mockery of black culture. Notable responses to the party included a letter of grievance from Arizona State’s Black and African Coalition and requests by Phoenix-based civil rights leader Reverend Jarrett Maupin that the participating students be expelled.
In return, TKE’s governing board released an official statement reaffirming the organization’s disapproval of racist, discriminatory and/or offensively themed parties. The fraternity lost recognition from the University due to its “Black Party.”
Is the concept of imitating what one understands to be the culture of a different ethnicity disrespectful or admirable? “Embrace It” is a motto endorsed by many cultural diversity programs. This can be interpreted merely as the acceptance of differences or adopting the other group’s lifestyles.
Are athletic jerseys, bandanas, baggy clothing and watermelons representative of typical Black-American culture? What percentage of blacks frequently wear such attire and is it exclusive to the African American demographic? If statistics were to prove that to be true, is there anything wrong with it?
In order to correct the fraternity boys, we should not remove them from the University because that type of punishment can only lead to resentment. Instead, we should immerse them in a service-learning project within an “urban” neighborhood for purposes of enlightenment. Now, on the other hand, African Americans need to discontinue the perpetuation of trends that we deem to be distasteful. After we have abolished such heinous exhibitions from within our own community, we may ask others to do the same.
Until blacks discontinue the hypocrisy whilst making unsubstantiated claims of being innocent victims, the prevailing problem lies amongst us. Sadly enough, the circumstances revolving this episode are not so “black and white,” so I leave you with one final thought: What would Martin Luther King Jr. do?
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