Another week. Another racial costume party. Students at Santa Clara University decided to have a “South of the Border Party.” Here is a quote:
Photographs taken at the private, off-campus party and splashed on Internet sites reveal a crude and narrow portrayal of Latino life. One student hammed it up before the camera with a stuffed balloon on her belly, under her blouse. Another posed for a close-up shot of her puckered mouth, thickly lipsticked and lined in black. One student wore a janitorial costume complete with the long, rubber gloves commonly used to clean bathrooms.
Once again the photos were posted on facebook.
This is not the first Latino themed party to draw scrutiny. Last year a Tri-Delta sorority and Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at University of Illinois hosted a “Tacos & Tequila” party, which lead to protests on campus and subsequent sanctions from the campus fraternity and sorority boards. The University of Illinois is also home to the facebook group “Students Against Racially Themed Parties.”
Both of these cases also reveal the patterns of racially themed parties. In the Santa Clara case there was another party labeled “Fresh Off The Boat,” and at Illinois there was party called “Big Booty Hoes & Ghetto Bros.”
The student newspaper at Santa Clara has been covering the story, and they have a few of the pictures from the party. The editors blurred the faces out of the pictures, with an “interesting” justification at the bottom of the article. In their defense the student paper gave an excellent editorial on racially themed parties. Here is a quote:
These theme parties are nothing new, and many Santa Clara students have attended them, dressed up or not. The people depicted in the pictures of this specific party were just the ones that got caught. Whether it be a “South of the Border,” “Ghetto” or “Fresh off the Boat” party, feeding into ethnic stereotypes at parties has become a pastime of predominately white, upper-class students at colleges nationwide.
What is it about our backgrounds and education that has made us think that racism is a form of entertainment?
It may be the way our generation has been raised on satire. From “The Simpsons” to “Family Guy” and “Chapelle’s Show,” manipulating ethnic stereotypes for humor is nothing new to us.
But the true issue at hand is that many white students are ignorant of race issues that minorities face on a daily basis, in some cases because of a lack of contact with people from minority ethnic groups or disadvantaged economic backgrounds.
And in that respect, Santa Clara is failing in its mission.
Would the women at the party have chosen to dress the way that they did if they had done an Arrupe placement in a community where immigrants work long hours at custodial jobs just to pay the bills? Maybe not.
The paper makes a good point. Racism and poverty make great fun for those who are not the victims of it, and it is important that universities take a lead role in educating students about this. Unfortunately, many students are not getting an appropriate education on racism and its destructive effects from their primary school, their secondary schools, or their families.
Thanks to Bean for the heads up on this!!