Six of the Most Disturbing Racist and Sexist Themed College Frat Events from the Past Year
It's common knowledge that at fraternity and sorority parties much more is slurred than just words. Racial and sexual epithets abound, not only spoken, but also displayed through dress, signs, gestures, email and social media posts. Yet year after year this practice continues, unabated, reported on for salacious details and then left to die in the news caverns of the Huffington Post archives.
Caitlin Flanagan’s cover story for the Atlantic on the history of frat house fatalities, fraternity, and to a much lesser extent sorority culture, has rekindled public outrage. The hulking, year-long investigation covers nearly two centuries of brotherly exclusivity along with more recent scourges of sexual assault, students falling from great heights at parties, and painful hazing rituals.
Let the media mudslinging (or, rather, the Animal House-style food fights) begin! Maria Konnikova also wrote for the Atlantic this week about the cult of white male privilege that characterizes so many fraternities. “One of the fundamental principles of group psychology,” Konnikova writes, “is that, in order to define a group, you must define not only what it’s for, but what — or whom — it’s against.”
Konnikova began to get at the psychological underpinnings of frat life, but it was Katie J.M. Baker at Al Jazeera who administered the smackdown. Baker writes that Flanagan’s article doesn’t “look at the real ‘dark’ side of Greek life: institutional class privilege, racism and sexism.” That's true. When Greek life makes it into the media spotlight it’s almost always to do with some outrageously insensitive party that targets women and minorities for the pleasure of their mostly white, mostly male peers (okay, and rapebaiting emails and the occasional butt-chug).
Don’t know much about history? Consider this your primer on another year of racist, sexist ragers that no amount of dubious punch can black out.
1. “Thug Party” at Arizona State University
What’s the sexiest time for a bunch of privileged white kids to wear basketball jerseys, drink frat juice from hollowed-out watermelons, and flash gang signs? According to members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Arizona State University that would be MLK day (correct answer: never). This past January, students congregated in what they interpreted as thug attire, posted copious pictures of the charade on social media, and even got creative with tags like #MLKblackout and #hood and studded their Instagram posts with watermelon emoticons.
The New York Times reported that the fraternity was suspended after outraged students allied with civil rights leaders. The fraternity had already been on probation after one of its members was suspected of beating up a black classmate on campus. The ASU undergraduate student population is 5 percent black.
2. “USA vs. Mexico” party at Randolph-Macon University
In November, members of Kappa Alpha fraternity threw a party where guests were encouraged to dress like “illegal Mexicans” and border patrol agents at Randolph-Macon University in Ashland Virginia. Participants, who sported sombreros, large fake mustaches, and border patrol disguises, were encouraged to play a drinking game in which the students dressed as agents tried to “catch” students portraying immigrants. According to NBC Latino, the fraternity’s guiding slogan is “The moral compass for the modern gentleman.”
Randolph-Macon University is only the most recent example of this insolent strain of frat party. The University of Texas at Austin had promoted such an event in September 2012. “Alpha Tau Omega Presents Fiestau” advertised a veritable obstacle course of institutional racism with guests told there would be some sort of faux-wall in the middle of the party with Mexican-themed drinks on one side and Texan-themed drinks on the other. There’s nothing borderline about the biases of those who planned the event without raising objections. In response to pressure from a slew of UT students, the party name was unhelpfully changed to “Alpha Tau Omega Presents the Alamo” and then canceled altogether.