Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Unmask Subtle Racism in Party Themes

Last weekend, Johns Hopkins University suspended its chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity for holding a “Halloween in the Hood” party. According to the Associated Press, the party encouraged students to come dressed wearing “regional clothing” and jewelry including “bling bling ice ice, grills” and “hoochie hoops.” The open-invitation party also featured a skeleton pirate hanging from a noose. The Black Student Union protested the party on Monday, comparing a picture of the skeleton to a photograph of a historic lynching.

The peculiar institution of stereotype-themed parties has become a regular occurrence at Georgetown, as well; the most recent – a string of “ghetto”-themed parties with names that allude to frequently-invoked racial prejudices. I can1t help but notice as, weekend after weekend, my Facebook newsfeed displays party names and album titles making offensive connections between specific groups of people and certain behavior. A recent album title employed three words that act as racial epithets by representing behavior historically and unfairly attached to the black community since slavery: alcoholism, low-cost food and greasy obesity as related to urban poverty. Students came to what was essentially a black-themed party dressed as gangsters, prisoners and single mothers. The misrepresentation of Black America is troubling enough. But the fundamental misunderstanding of the systemic implications behind these racist profiles raises serious questions about the presence, or lack thereof, of issues of diversity and social justice in a Georgetown education.

Not one of us can leave this university without having pondered the nature and role of God in any fewer than two courses. But it is all too easy for Hoyas to leave the Hilltop without examining the way racial prejudices persist in our world – and certainly at our school – and continue to oppress large communities on a daily basis.

We all hold and are held to stereotypes based on identity – white, black, Latino, Asian, male, female, straight, queer, to name only a few – but the important part is that we identify them and work together as an educated community to deconstruct them. It is imperative that we enter into these conversations in our classrooms and at our parties. What does it mean for individuals of incredible educational privilege to poke fun at those struggling to make ends meet and refer to them as “white trash?” How does the promotion of feminine roles of sexual subservience influence the women – and men – who attend “pimps `n hoes” parties? How do Facilities employees – integral members of our community who often represent a wide spectrum of Spanish-speaking countries – feel when they are held responsible for cleaning up the remains of a “Latino Loving” party? And what damage are we doing to ourselves and to our community when we ignore these discussions on a regular basis in the name of comfort and homogeneity?

It is not that these parties or the people that hold and attend them are malicious-minded bigots; that they came to my attention through Facebook means that they are parties that involve my friends, people who I admire and respect. But the ways in which we so frequently allow our social space to become grounds for modern-day minstrel shows is suggestive of something bigger: most Georgetown students know little and care less about the way seemingly benign acts of private fun affect a wider audience in a very public way. How hurtful it is for a student of any of Georgetown’s many under-represented communities to watch as their peers in the cultural majority get their weekend fun from the very stereotypes and prejudices that keep themselves and their families from being fairly embodied here at Georgetown. And how embarrassing it is for the rest of us to watch as we allow racism to take place in the pursuit of fun. In order to be a “community in diversity” we absolutely cannot be a community that allows overt discrimination – racial or otherwise – to exist in any subtle way.

Even when we’re drunk.

Chrissy A. Balz is a senior in the college, a Hoya staff writer and a member of the Diversity Action Council.

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