Thursday, January 23, 2014

TKE Chapter at ASU Celebrates Dr. King By Denigrating African-American Culture

The state of higher education in Arizona?
One of the really sad parts about all of these Tau Kappa Epsilon frat clowns from Arizona State University who held a "Martin Luther King Black Party" over the MLK holiday weekend is they're probably too young and too stupid to know who Barry Goldwater is or how his politics shifted the tenor of race in America in the late 60's and early 70's.

I seriously doubt they even know who former Arizona Governor Evan Mecham is.

Or if they're aware of the national controversy (and embarrassment) he brought to the state of Arizona by his leading opposition to the creation of a federal holiday in Dr. King's name and defending the use of the word "pickaninny" to describe black children.

My first thought when I heard this account of 21st century black face by blond suburban college kids from America with a remarkably one-dimensional and contemptuous view of black culture was not surprise, but, "Arizona? Here we go again."

Just look at the three kids in that picture. Look at the girl holding a watermelon cup.

It's not just how they're dressed up in the way they perceive African-Americans (as gang-sign slinging, low-pants wearing ignoramuses in NBA jerseys), it's the idea that of all people, they tie this event to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - a man of the cloth who preached non-violence, fought to heal the nation and eventually gave his life for the rights and dignity of all of humanity.

It's so insulting and offensive, I doubt the three douche-bags in that photo even get it.

To top it off, not only did these braniacs take photos of themselves dressed like 2014 versions of Stepin' Fetchit; they posted them on the Internet via Instagram, with Twitter hash-tags like #blackoutformlk and #ihaveadream.

Kappa Alpha Thetas from Columbia University
at a "Beer Olympics" party in Feb. 2014 
By now the story's blown up to the point in the national media spotlight to where Arizona State's brand as an institution of higher learning is bleeding credibility with every minute the administration doesn't crack down hard on this dimwit TKE chapter with a very troubled history.

Of course students of all races from ASU expressed outrage at this incident, so I'm not for a second suggesting ASU harbors a large population of culturally insensitive bigots.

People like the frat members and others who attended this party seem to be, nor is such behavior confined to the ASU Greek system either - as Derek Clifton reported in an article for, Kappa Alpha Thetas from Columbia University were photographed in their Mexican regalia for a "Beer Olympics" party in February, 2014 *.

[*Editor's note, I originally published this blog on 1/23/14, but updated it on 2/24/18]

Give it time. The usual suspects for right wing conservatism will soon be weighing in to bravely defend the frat boys and their right to think and say what they want.

I've already read a couple articles raising the question of whether the TKE brothers have a "Constitutional right" to insult and mock African-American culture then post it on the Web; as if this is some kind of free speech case that will go to the Supreme Court.

But this is a state school, not a private hunting club; and this wasn't some intellectual expression taking place in a classroom during debate club.

Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio
The TKE brothers held a party where there was underage drinking while the frat was already on probation from an incident in 2012 when members of the frat went to an apartment en masse and assaulted a black member of a rival fraternity.

And let's not forget the context.

Arizona is the state with Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Maricopa County and Obama-hating ex-Gov. Jan Brewer.

Neither of whom who ever met an immigrant or gun law they liked.

Stuff like this isn't new for America's fraternity system.

Frat houses (some, not all) have been havens for ignorant expressions of bigotry for years. When I was a student at Penn State in the late 80's there was a campus-wide controversy over a frat that held a "Ghetto Party", it was replete with the same kind of offensive and cartoonish portrayals of African-American culture that were displayed by the TKE brothers at ASU.

Last year Kappa Sigma frat brothers and sorority sisters at Duke University did the same thing with an "Kappa Sigma Asia-Prime"party. Do you even need to click that link to know what it was about?

Tau Kappa Epsilon wasn't the first, they won't be the last, but it makes you wonder. Think about the parties we don't hear about.

Frats consider themselves the elite of the campus community, so if denigrating and mocking non-white cultures is some kind of longstanding social tradition within the Greek system, what's that saying about institutes of higher learning in America? What's it say about the kind of values passed on by the Greek system?

Let's not pretend college administrators don't know all about it either. What kind of people are those kids in the photo going to grow up to be? That doesn't seem to be the kind of attitude one just shrugs off and sheds when one (hopefully) graduates.

If I had a child, I sure as hell wouldn't want that chick in the middle of the photo above holding that watermelon cup in her hand teaching my kid in kindergarten; because I'm not sure she'd really see my child at all - she'd see exactly what she's been taught to see.   

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