It's 2014--Why do we still treat cultures as costumes?

You'd think that college communities (in these three instances, frats--but I don't want this to devolve into an anti-frat conversation) would have learned after numerous incidents of dressing up as other cultures that it's not a good idea and that there will be consequences. But no, an Arizona State University fraternity decided that it'd be a good idea to have something called an "MLK Black Party" for Martin Luther King Day, no less. And racist stereotypes abounded--from watermelon cups to the sartorial choices. Fortunately, they have been suspended for this, but honestly, it baffles my mind that these things are so common. The "Colonial Bros and Nava-hos" party at Cal Poly happened just last November--and it's particularly heinous a theme to have for so many reasons.

  1. You really going to joke about colonization when it essentially wiped out entire Native American communities?
  2. You really going to joke about "Nava-hos" when a Native woman is 2.5 times more likely to face sexual assault than women of any other race?
  3. You really going to perpetuate the narrative that women of color are exotic and hypersexualized beings? (I've also written more on this here).

Then there was the situation at Duke, where there was a nice smattering of racist accent stereotypes in the information about the "AsiaPrime" party--along with the usual mish-mash of multiple Asian cultures merged together as some great pan-Asian cultural appropriation of Asianess.

Time and time again, we're told that these are "jokes" or even more bizarrely, some form of homage to the cultures that they're appropriating. Sorry, I don't appreciate being told that as a Chinese woman, I'm either a dragon lady or a porcelain doll--that is not at all "honoring" my culture.

Students at Ohio State University have put on a great campaign against these types of cultural stereotypes:

Ohio student group STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) run a campaign on stereotyping and costumes.

Now if only these frats would listen.

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