February 10, 2003
Racial sensitivity update

Great. Just what we need.

AUSTIN - Students at the University of Texas are accusing several fraternities of hosting parties in which participants wore racially insensitive costumes.

A formal complaint was planned today against at least one of the fraternities.

Dean of Students Teresa Graham Brett told The Daily Texan in today's edition she was informed of the Kappa Alpha Order party as well as Halloween parties thrown by Kappa Alpha and Phi Gamma Delta. She said students approached her with photographs of the parties taken by a local party photographer.

One photograph taken at a Phi Gamma Delta Party on Oct. 31 shows a white man wearing black paint on his face and body, an "afro" wig on his head and a chain with a lock around his neck.

Another photo taken at a Kappa Alpha party on Jan. 31 shows a white man wearing a T-shirt commemorating a Juneteenth event in 2000 while another is shown wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a large watermelon.

UT economics senior Onaje Barnes said he and other students plan to file a complaint with the Office of Greek Life and Education regarding the "Gin and Juice Party" held by the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity on Jan. 31.

But Kappa Alpha president Tim Weaver said the party's theme was meant to idolize rap music and popular culture icons and he did not realize people were going to be offended.

"It seems there were some people that showed up with extremely offensive T-shirts," Weaver, an undeclared junior, told the newspaper. "I do apologize for that part of it. We do not think it should have been that big of a deal. It came at a bad time, I think."

Barnes said the problem is that people think this behavior is acceptable.

Phil Gamma Delta historian Chris Knox said he did not see anyone wearing such costumes at the fraternity's event.

But Brett said she found the photographed costumes highly offensive, and is reviewing actions that can be taken against the fraternity.

Jesus H. Christ. What century are we in again? Is there anyone over the age of three in the United States of freaking America who can honestly say that they don't think such imagery is offensive? Is there anyone who's led such a sheltered and privileged life that they have no damn clue why people find such things offensive? How many more times does this sort of thing have to happen before people get it?

Gah. I need a beer.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 10, 2003 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

I once was talking to a white guy who had attended one of these parties. He argued to me that he, as a third generation greek american, did not find toga parties offensive, so he thought black people shouldn't take "Act Like You're Black" parties offensive. The discusion degenerated from there.
So, in a word, YES, there are a lot of people who don't understand why these things are offensive, and its usually because they haven't really thought about what it means to be african american in this country.

Posted by: MDtoMN on February 10, 2003 6:35 PM

I remember when I was in college....seeing black and white photos from black-face college parties at my alma mater back in the 50's. Even more appalling to me was that sort or thing still went on and had to be pointed out as being wrong during my era. And that was ten years ago.

To point a finger, what's with these Kappa Alpha guys, anyway? Is it an initiation rite or something that they have to be insulting to African Americans in order to join? It just seems the word "intolerance" seems to show up immeditately whenever I read about them. "Old South" parties just aren't the same anymore since black-face went out of fashion. I guess "Gin and Juice" parties are the next wave. I believe the frat at Texas A & M called theirs a "Pimps" party. Can a "welfare queen" party be far behind? It would be a big joke (how often it happens with them) if it weren't such a painful display of a complete lack of human understanding.

Posted by: Don on February 10, 2003 8:27 PM

My ex grew up in Oregon and had never seen, much less met, a black person in the flesh until he came to Rice as an undergrad. I can understand the possibility of a guy who literally has never been around black people being clueless and insensitive, but people living in Austin don't have that excuse.

The comparison to toga parties is particularly inapt. Insofar as I know, toga-wearing isn't 'acting like you're Greek' within living memory.

Posted by: Ginger on February 12, 2003 3:03 PM