Will Racist Theme Parties Ever Go Out Of Style? [Reader Forum]

Duke University frat throws a racist rager, featuring yellow-face, kimonos, and more. Colorlines readers sound off on why another semester always seems to mean another racist theme party.

By Nia King Feb 11, 2013

Duke University is in the news again, and it’s not good this time either. Last week, Jorge Rivas reported that Duke’s Kappa Sigma fraternity threw a racist theme party where white students dressed up as racist caricatures of Asian people. The school administration found out about the party early and pushed the frat to cancel it, but Kappa Sigma instead decided to re-brand the party as "a celebration of all cultures and the diversity of Duke," and proceed as planned. Asian American students have been organizing in response to the party, and the parent fraternity has suspended the Duke chapter, but the damage has already been done. So, how do we prevent things like this from happening in the future? Here’s what you had to say.

Cameron Joe:

This is why we need to teach our children how to be critical thinkers, how to think through ethics and morals, how to be self-reflexive, how to be compassionate, how to be sensitive, how to recognize the humanity of others. Not this standardized test BS that’s turning everyone in to multicultural neoliberal machines. With a little compassion and empathy for the struggle of those who are outsiders to the US (people of color, poor folks, and many others), this party would have never happened.

Matthew Wong:

If this were a rare or freak occurrence, I’d be reluctant to give this sort of foolishness any attention. The problem is that this is the 4th racist themed fraternity/sorority party that I’ve been made aware of in recent memory – the earliest of which occurred at Cornell during my senior year.

The question that needs to be begged is, "What is it about white supremacist pathology in the U.S. that leaves so many white youths thinking racism is intrinsically humorous?" From being called "Ching Chong," chink, or Bruce Lee when I was a kid in the 90s to these "Racist Ragers" as a young adult in the aughts, there is a shocking consistency to this sort phenomenon of boorish anti-humor. Some might want to label these occurrences and populations as exceptions, but how can you except occurrences as persistent and omnipresent as these? What is white America’s response?

Clark Rea:

I can’t say I’m surprised. Just turn on the TV to Comedy Central and it should be apparently clear that most of what society plays off as "funny" is either rooted heavily in facetiousness, subltey gross racism, or sexual in nature. Personally speaking, even as insensitive as this is, I think there are much bigger issues that deserve our attention at this point in history.

To which Karen Carr responds:

It’s not either/or – we have time to pay attention to racist parties as well as to pay attention to climate change. There are plenty of people in the world for both.

And Roberta Sanders:

The issue is not simply "how kids decide to get wasted." The issue is how this instance (taken with the general pop culture trend you reference yourself) shows the persistence of racism and the depth to which it subconsciously penetrates people’s psyche. Reducing each individual instance of racist expression to the level of simply being a social faux pas, therefore not meriting serious consideration, is a mindset that permits racism to fester. Treating an individual expression of racism as no more than a faux pas, and not as a symptom of a broader problem, is also an example of derailing.

Christina López:

I am outraged at the blatant racism on campus. The students who led the protest should be applauded for doing something about it rather than whining or letting the fact that there IS racism, sexism, and homophobia broadcast all too much on the bigger mainstream media from stopping them!!! The last episode of "The New Girl" had blatant racism where there was a caricature of Indian dress by three characters. Disappointed but not surprised considering art and media often reflect the surrounding culture. So KUDOS to the students for doing something about the ugly racism that continues to infest this culture of ours.

Pelon Navarro:

Fuck Duke…..the Stanford of the South? More like the Carrington College of the South. Can’t we be more creative with party themes in 2013?

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