I uploaded my Europe pics last night…… feel free to peruse! I promise to write a little about the trip soon, but first I must vent about something that I simultaneously couldn’t believe and yet expected from people at my school……..
I received the following invitation to a party this week (came from someone in my graduate program):
What better way ring in the new quarter than a good old fashioned theme party!?!
This Saturday, March 31st, join me at my place for the theme party of the year! The theme for the evening will be Stereotype. That’s right, throw away the urge to be politically correct, culturally competent, and sensitive to diversity and let the urge to judge and categorize shine through! Come as your favorite stereotype!!!
When: The evening of Saturday March 31st. 8:00 pm
Who: You and whoever you want to bring. The more the merrier!
What to Bring: A kick ass costume and the beverage of your choice!
Hope to see you all this Saturday!!
Your theme party lovin’ friend,
Naturally, I was disturbed by the idea of this party……it came from someone I didn’t personally know, but I knew a good number of the other invitees on the email list. Immediately, I thought of the trend of “stereotype” and “politically incorrect” parties that have sprung up at college campuses across the U.S. I conferred with Carmen, and she was kind enough to arm me with an array of Racialicious links documenting these parties from the past year.
So here is the email that I sent out to all the party people:
Hey, all—I understand that the whole point of this party is to not be politically correct, and in no way am I trying to say what people should or shouldn’t do, but I wanted to point out a trend that has been happening on college campuses that are similar to this party’s theme….. (I’m also not accusing anyone here of any malicious intent.)
I’m sorry to be a wet blanket, but honestly the first thing I thought of when I saw the theme for this party was the “Stereotype Party” that was thrown by students at Tarleton State University (in Texas outside Fort Worth) this year on MLK, Jr. Day. Here’s an article: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,246884,00.html
Also, a “politically incorrect” party at Macalaster had the following costume: “A particular costume choice by two students caught the attention of Paul Maitland-McKinley ’09, president of the student organization Black Liberation Affairs Committee (BLAC). Maitland-McKinley learned of the party last Friday, Jan. 26, from an anonymous student who was present at the party. The costume involved one student dressing as a Ku Klux Klan member, with a second student wearing face paint to appear dark skinned. The costume also included a simulated noose, one end in the hand of the Klan-costumed member, the other end around the student with the blackface’s neck.” (From The Mac Weekly, the student newspaper)
And here are more links about similar parties (with photos) at other universities (Clemson, Texas A&M, UConn, Arizona, William Jewell, Macalaster, Santa Clara, etc.):
I apologize if I’m coming off as an over-sensitive, uptight bee-yotch with no sense of fun, but I felt like I had to say something here. I know that we at the Evans School generally strive to be “politically correct, culturally competent, and sensitive to diversity” in our day-to-day lives……is being so such a burden?
I decided to email everyone, because it was Thursday night, the party was on Saturday, and basically my point was not to say, “Don’t have the party, you ignorant racists.” My point was to raise some awareness about these parties that have been going on. Did I think that Evans people were going to show up tomorrow night in blackface? No. Did I think that the party organizer had bad intentions in throwing the party? No. (You know what they say about good intentions, though.) However, having a party where the invitation urges people to “throw away the urge to be politically correct, culturally competent, and sensitive to diversity and let the urge to judge and categorize shine through” opens the door for all kinds of horribleness. I think a lot of people at our school think that somehow we’re exempt from being in the wrong in these kinds of things, simply because most of us identify as “liberal.” Lighten up! We’re not perpetuating negative stereotypes…..we’re just having fun!
I was encouraged to receive some supportive messages from other Evans students, saying that they hadn’t been aware of the extent of these other parties. But then I received this gem from a person (not an Evans student, but a student at UCLA) who is a friend of the party organizer (emphasis mine):
I believe you are out of line. Not only is your email, sent out in mass to all of [name removed]’s friends, presumptuous and accusatory, it also paints ignorance onto a group of people who are not, in fact, ignorant. I find it ironic that the concerns you raise are connected to remaining sensitive and socially conscious, and yet you have displayed no tact or sensitivity in so proudly reminding others of how they should behave. Parody is often a form of humor that expresses, not acceptance of, or insensitivity to, but resistance to commonly held misperceptions. I also believe that passive aggressive, self-righteous behavior, such as you have displayed, needs to be eliminated more than politically incorrect behavior. I think that emailing [name removed] herself about your concerns would have been an appropriate, and yes less bee-yotchy, way of dealing with the situation. Please consider a less judgmental, more kind way of dealing with your classmates in the future. Calling yourself a wet blanket does not shield readers from realizing you have passed judgment and dampened a social event planned by one of the most sensitive, caring persons I’ve ever met. However, I don’t believe you know that, not being a friends of [name removed]. I am a friend of [name removed] visiting for the weekend. I received your email and found it more offensive than the links you included. If you’d like to come and discuss your views, I would certainly accommodate that.
Nice, right? I’m not sure how expressing my opinion as tactfully as I knew how translates as being passive-aggressive. What would have been really passive-aggressive would be if I had gone to the party and surreptitiously taken photos and posted them on the internet. (Not going to do that, though–I do not want to be anywhere near this party on Saturday night!) I decided against emailing the party organizer alone, because I thought it would be helpful to have everyone who had been invited know about these other parties. If this makes people think twice about their costume for the party, then I think that’s a good thing. But I guess I’m getting painted as a bitch in the process.
Ultimately, this has served as a reminder of how disappointed I’ve been in my graduate school experience overall. (More on that later.) I also continue to wonder if Seattle is really a place that I can call “home”…..