ASU White Fraternity Throws “Black Party” in Honor of MLK: Is It Racist?

CBS reported on a fraternity at ASU, Tau Kappa Epsilon, that threw a party to celebrate MLK day by having a “Black Party”. Basically, the members of the fraternity decided it would be a good idea to dress in the most stereo-typically black outfits possible. Replete with sports jerseys, bandannas, rolled up pant legs and gang signs, the party ensued to significant backlash from the school and the web.

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With all the backlash the fraternity endured, the question of whether or not this act is racist seems to have been succinctly answered. However, I wanted to raise the question once again and analyze exactly what makes it racist.

First and foremost, we need to define racism. Growing up, I was taught that racism was the hatred of other based on their race. The actual definition is quite different. It actually means the belief that members of a certain race hold characteristics particular to that race and often using these characteristics to distinguish that race as inferior. Right of the bat, there is no evidence to suggest that these college kids think that blacks are inferior to them. But they are certainly making assumptions of the black culture and dressing to accommodate those stereotypes.

I think the main determining factor behind whether or not something is racist is intent. In this particular case, there was no malicious intent, in fact, these students believed that they were honoring MLK by hosting a black themed party. But clearly, these student are out of touch with what is politically correct and culturally insensitive.

So my final verdict:

Racist: No.
Politically incorrect: Yes.
Ignorant: Yes.
Stereo typing: Yes.
Insensitive: Yes.

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Tau Kappa Epsilon released the following statement regarding the incident:

“Tau Kappa Epsilon does not condone or support any actions by its members that would be defined as racist, discriminatory, and/or offensive. Social events with “party themes” that are defined as such have no place in our fraternity’s mission or purpose. It is with embarrassment and regret when a few individuals within our organization make decisions that do not align with the values and principles of Tau Kappa Epsilon.

“Since 1899, our fraternity has taken much pride in the diversity and uniqueness of our membership. Tau Kappa Epsilon has never had an exclusionary clause in our membership. Our founders believed, as we do today, in the personal worth and character of the individual, not his wealth, rank, or honor. We take great pride in having members who were and are still advocates of civil rights movements in the United States. We celebrate all men and women of all races, genders, creeds, orientations, and beliefs who strive each day to make the world a better place.

“We apologize for any offensive actions that a few of our members might have participated in. We can assure all other parties that these actions do not represent Tau Kappa Epsilon and the beliefs of love, charity, and esteem that we have stood by for 115 years. We will respond to these individuals while holding the utmost respect for our principles of being Better Men for a Better World.

“A member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity professional staff is currently on-site at Arizona State University to begin an investigation. We have been working with university officials since we became aware of the alleged incident.”

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