Not at the moment.
Not after reading this and this and this about the blackfacing that went down at a Greek party on Tuesday night — called “Kanye Western”, a play on the name of rapper and Yeezus Kanye West — at the cultural expense of UCLA’s black student body, including its alumni. Me.
Shocked, some of the reportage is saying “Kanye Western” is something pulled out of the film “Dear White People.” That it’s a case of life imitating art. Nah. More like, the reverse: “Dear White People” is something straight out of “Kanye Western” and similarly, offensively themed costume parties, premised on just-jokes and colorblind, New Jim Crow racist tropes, at PWI’s across the country.
More like, art imitating life.
Lets take a moment and rehash:
According to Revolutionary News, Alison Frison, a third year philosophy major, found out about the party after following female students, costumed in stuffed butts, wine bottles, and “chunky gold chains,” to the Sigma Phi Episolon frat house.
Managing to sneak in a photo with one of the girls, she was spotted by a frat member, who blurted a code — “Twenty Twenty. Twenty Twenty” — and issued Frison a warning of trespassing on private property. Clearly party planners were cognizant of the risks and backlash involved in throwing this event.
40 plus Black students who, by this point, had gotten wind of the party, gathered across the street. Aware that they’d been found out, partygoers had begun slowly leaving, some hiding their (black)face, to avoid eye contact with black students. They’d later return, under the assumption that protesters had tired and left.
To cap the evening off, Frison would exchange words with frat boy member Max, who revealed himself as VP of New Membership of Sigma Phi, before apologizing for the party.
Frison requested a formal letter of apology. Instead, she got “I understand, even though I don’t understand because I’m just a stupid fucking white boy.” Indeed.
ASU’s (Afrikan Student Union) and Black Student Union staged a protest, under the banner “My Culture Is Not A Costume.” Pressured, UCLA issued its statement:
While we do not yet have all the facts, the alleged behavior is inconsistent with good judgment as well as our principles of community. We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community. Put simply: Just because you can do something, does not mean you should.
Articles went up. Trolls crept out, performed. I won’t dwell on their virtual ignorance. I will say this.
Call it cultural ignorance. Call it irony. Call it “too P.C.” Call it “hypocritical” because you’ve seen “white face” (The Fuck.) When the populace of your public institution’s namesake votes up and refuses to appeal “Proposition 209,” and your undergraduate and graduate black student demographic sits stagnant at 4 percent, and you prefer to use your virtual platform, however small, to defend an ill-planned frat boy party, I call it a problem.
I’d like to believe what some “reasonable” commenters are arguing, that white students were spoofing on celebrities, that the sooty faces and overalls were an innocent play on West’s name and song, “Gold-Digger,” that white students weren’t using satire as a pretext to mix and match blackface with baggy pants. I really want to. But, that part of me called a very educated brain just ain’t that naive.
I’m relieved police sided with black student protesters and didn’t harass, injure, or arrest black students who made an appearance, and held it down against partygoers and throwers. I hope the “investigation” doesn’t dwindle into empty talk. I hope Sigma Phi Episolon and Alpha Phi are held accountable for their blatant cultural ineptitude.
Most of all, I hope the whole UCLA community is taking note. I am. And, I’m there with you in spirit.
For the persons tempted to put the blame of such costume parties on Black Lives Matter (because Black Lives Matter is to blame for every level of anti-black-motivated incidents in these times), to advance the argument that this movement is inopportune and excavates the worst, latent human traits of would-be white allies, of provoking this sort of emotional violence, head over to The Washington Post, and listen to Simone Sebastian.
You don’t have to like how BLM is rocking the status quo boat. Respect it. While you’re at, set the microaggressions aside, and appreciate your country’s — our country’s — centuries-long history of structural racism.
Black Bruins sure as hell matter. Do better, UCLA.