Racist Ragers: Why they matter

COMMENTARY BY: CHRISTOPHER PHOMPRASEUT

Chances are you have heard of Duke’s Kappa Sigma and the “Asia Prime” party they threw a week ago.

Protesters calling the party the “racist rager,” described the event as a negative play on Asian American orientalism and stereotypes.

The party email opened with, “Herro Nice Duke Peopre” and ended with ‘Chank You’ and a picture of Kim Jung II from Team America.

Kappa Sigma  renamed the event “International Relations” in response to criticism.  Despite the attempt at re-branding, party-goers still dressed in crude representations of Asian-American stereotypes, such as geishas and sumo wrestlers.

Offended students organized a response, creating a series of fliers critiquing the party’s racist theme that were displayed on-campus and various social media platforms.  On-campus fliers were removed as quickly as they were put up, in what some are suggesting was an effort by Kappa Sigma and Duke’s campus police to silence the protest.  Students quickly mobilized to organize a protest, while the email and party pictures began to draw national attention.

Protests over the party also took aim at the larger party culture at Duke, which was seen as permitting cultural insensitivity, racism, and sexism; students pointed to a history of party themes that relied on stereotypes of cultural and ethnic minorities, including American Indians and Latin Americans.

Kappa Sigma responded to student protests by apologizing and partnering with The Coalition for an Inclusive Duke to host ”Race is not a Party: Rally for an Inclusive Duke,” on February 12th.

Kappa Sigma has since been suspended by both the national organization and Duke University, although Duke maintains that the suspension is unrelated to the party.

This now brings me to confront, “Why was it a big deal?”

Why is it a big deal that a group of people mocked another race? There isn’t any harm right? They didn’t seriously believe ALL Asian people are like that.

While I cannot speak on the regards of all Kappa Sigma, I do believe they acted on ignorance.

Students attending the party put on a costume, a ‘play’ on negative stereotypes of the Asian community.  A costume they can easily take off right after the party.

However, can I remove my costume? Can I remove my identity? No.

Members of Kappa Sigma mocked my identity as an Asian American.

More than just as an Asian American, but also as a person of color, the “Asia Prime” party served as a reminder to me about how despite the progressive nature of our universities, we as people of color still have a long way to go from being victims of crude stereotypes.

“Well there are parties and stereotypes that mock white people,” a common rebuttal to the outrage.  However, stereotypes about white people commonly represent success and power.

Another might argue about ‘redneck’ stereotypes; however, this is rooted in classism rather than race.

People fail to realize differences in the dynamic of power within our society.  People of color are repeatedly marginalized and made crude caricatures of negative stereotypes, which adversely affects their prospects in society.  Additionally, experiences of racism and marginalization have serious consequences for the mental and emotional health of people of color.

People put on costumes and mock identities at the expense of another race or culture.  At the end of the day, the person wearing the costume can take it off while people of that particular race or culture still have to struggle against stereotypes and prejudice.

Should we raise our voices in disdain at Duke? Maybe, but we should also consider at our own university:  this fall a UNC sorority’s Bid Day theme  involved stereotypes of Hispanic culture.

While I do believe that the party was the result of ignorance and has been largely resolved, I do think it is necessary we talk about it. And talk about why is it a big deal with each other and how it is not ok to appropriate another culture.

thecampusblueprint

3 Comments

  1. Read this article if you are interested in becoming a writer.

    It’s like one of those example questions in standardized school tests, where you HAVE to read it, and then are forced to respond.

    I skimmed over it – is there any substance to this? Toga parties have been around for ages, and are usually low-budget jokes. Who cares? Is anyone actually discriminated against at these parties?

    I’m seeing this article at an attempt to place the stick even further up an aspiring college student’s ass.

      • Campus BluePrint moderates all comments to regulate spam and needless attacks against writers. Moderating comments doesn’t mean we don’t post them; it just means we read them first.

        Your comments came dangerously close to both of those categories. I encourage you to confront someone when you disagree about something, but saying things like “an attempt to place the stick even further up an aspiring college student’s ass” and calling one of our writers a coward because of comment moderation isn’t in any way constructive, and I’d discourage you from doing it more.

        As to your point: I wouldn’t compare racially themed parties to toga parties or any other type of costume party. Toga parties are references to times gone by, not to any specific contemporary culture. The problem with these racially themed parties is that the point of them is to make a caricature of races and cultures today. And it’s always the majority making a caricature of the minority, and it DOES make people uncomfortable. It’s like saying characteristics of their race or culture deviate significantly from the “norm” as the majority defines it.

        I encourage you to respond and to comment more in the future, but I ask that you be a little more constructive and respectful in the future.

        Thanks for reading!

        -Carey Hanlin
        Editor-in-Chief

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