When Did Racism Become Recreation?

I am Asian Indian. My best friends from school are Malaysian, Chinese, Korean, Latina, German, South African, Nigerian, and the list goes on. I am pretty sure I have friends from most of the countries in the world, but most importantly, we all consider ourselves Americans because we live on this land and we are being educated here. America gives us the freedom to pursue our dreams through our education without being persecuted for the color of our skin or the accents of our language. However, that seems to be changing, and I am not sure why.

I would blatantly be lying to myself if I said that my institution or any other college in America was free from racism. It saddens me when I have to read about incidents such as the one that occurred at Duke by the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. The fraternity decided to host an Asian themed party, which was originally called Kappa Sigma Asia Prime. A group of people were outraged at Kappa Sigma and posted fliers across campus protesting the party. The fliers contained the offensive emails the fraternity sent out about the party, and also had pictures the fraternity posted on Facebook of the party. The photographs from Facebook were of costumed students at the party with their faces blanked out.

Actually, incidents very similar to this happened at my own school when a fraternity decided to have “ethnic Olympics” in which one person dressed up as a Native American chief. Some of my other classmates had eggs thrown at them while they were playing on the tennis courts and were called derogatory names. Another girl was harassed by a bunch of drunken sorority girls as she walked back from the library because she was a Latina.

Normally when I see these kinds of incidents, I tell myself, “They’re just stupid kids who have no brains and will end up nowhere in life,” but is this really the truth? What if these people end up in high positions in society, positions that have the power to affect other people’s lives? These kinds of incidents raise many questions in my mind. For example, do these people really not realize that what they are doing is blatantly racist? Are these people racist themselves? The majority of the events at my school and other schools seem to involve sororities and fraternities. Is that just a coincidence? It’s not a secret that the majority of sororities and fraternities include white men and women. That being said, anyone can join a sorority or fraternity, but African Americans and Asians usually have their own sororities on campuses. Why is it that these ethnic groups feel like they have to have their own sororities? I think it’s because they feel a greater brotherhood with their “own people” but that makes me wonder, why do they feel like they have to have “their own people?”

I want to quickly address some things said about the Duke incident. When did it become fun to throw a party that mocks others’ ethnicity? Having an ethnic themed party is not acceptable no matter what people say. The only time I would ever say it is acceptable is if the people who are having the party are of that ethnicity. Then only is it called a joke. Why can’t people just go back to having beach themed parties or 70s parties? Some of you may say, what’s the big deal? It’s a stupid party and people just blew it out of proportion. By that very statement, you are saying that it’s OK to be racist if “you don’t really mean it.” A freshman at the party said that the group who put up the fliers protesting the party was a joke and yelled at them for “damaging the reputations of random people” who weren’t responsible for throwing the party. Ummmm, news flash, Freshman. You attended the party which means you were FINE with the theme of the party, which in turn makes you just as responsible (sorry to burst your bubble). But, similar to what a sophomore at Duke said, even though the reaction of the group to this party was completely justified, the way they handled it could have been better. However, I, even though I do agree with the sophomore, still completely support what the group did because universities are slow to punish people for this because they don’t want attention from the press and a bad reputation. They usually just want “to sweep things under the rug.”

A discussion about the Duke incident wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about stereotypes. The Duke incident is a typical example of perpetuating stereotypes held against Asian culture. I ask myself, “Am I perpetuating these stereotypes when I, myself, laugh at Asian Indian jokes?” Also, this leads me to ask, “How is the media helping or hurting our images of other cultures?” For example, the news is always talking about illegal immigrants from Mexico. Does this instigate an unconscious anger towards them that makes them the “butt of all our jokes?”

I honestly don’t have answers to any of the questions I asked in this article, and I really don’t care for answers to these questions. Instead, all I want is people to just respect each other. I think people are forgetting what the words common courtesy and respect mean and need to be reminded. ┬áIf everyone understood those words and practiced them, we wouldn’t need to hear about incidents like the one at Duke. What do you guys think?

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  1. gradstudent says:

    "Having an ethnic themed party is not acceptable no matter what people say. The only time I would ever say it is acceptable is if the people who are having the party are of that ethnicity. Then only is it called a joke."
    This is such a silly statement and I disagree. Ever think that people who go to "Ethnic themed parties" are actually SUPPORTING other culture and races? So then, for example, if I go to a party that the Himalaya Club (people of the countries of the Himalayan region, like Nepal or Bangladesh) and I am white…I am mocking their ethnicity? I don't think so. I think I am just supporting my friends.

    1. spit says:

      lol to me thats racist .. only allow people of that ethnicity experiment or celebrate their culture let the other be deprived of such fun ..

  2. Cata says:

    II want to ask if February, African-American month, is considered racist?
    Is hosting a Cinco de Mayo party derogatory to the Mexican community?
    Are toga parties a joke towards ancient Greece?
    Should we ban every theme party, just in-case it offends someone?
    A 70's theme party might offend my parents because they are being stereotyped. Beached theme party, might offend people in the coast.
    It's honorary to know that your culture has made such an impact in our society, that people want to throw theme parties about it. Trust me when I say this, 90% of the kids in that party would starve without Chinese food, and sushi rolls.
    Also, When you filled out that college application, they asked you for your race and ethnicity right on the application due to Affirmative action. So no, You are not simply an American, you are an Asian America, Hispanic- America, African-American etc. Don't lie to yourself, your ethnicity matters a lot when getting accepted into college.

    1. Adri says:

      I think your Cinco de Mayo comparison is wrong. If it had been a Chinese New Year party then you'd have a point, but it was a "dress up and pretend to be Chinese" party.

      Now, as a Mexican (living in Mexico, by the way) I'm not offended by Cinco de Mayo parties, but I do wonder why you host them. We don't even celebrate it. We get the day off because it's a national holiday, but it's not a day we find important. And to those who celebrate it because you think it's our independence, it's not…

      Anyway, I agree with what gradstudent said about theme parties being a way to support other ethnicities, but I also wonder how many of those students attended the party because they actually support the ethnicity and how many of them went because they thought it would be "fun or funny" to dress in what I'm assuming is their version of traditional Chinese garments. Honestly, if this had been a "Mexican party" and they were wearing sombreros or whatever people think we wear, I would have been offended.

  3. catmama says:

    So, by celebrating Aussie day, or Latin night, or Jamaican Island parties, where our international employees are proud to share their culture with the rest of the company, we are being racist? I don't think so.

    1. melissa says:

      I agree.

    2. Mels says:

      No, you're literally celebrating someone's culture. You're not being racist. :)

      The problem that people have with this Duke situation is the fact that they took it the extra step. So they dressed up for an asian themed party. So what? The problem is that some folks can't leave well enough alone. They went the extra step and sent out e-mails making fun of the way Asians speak ("Chank you" and "Herro" (For hello)).

      I, personally, am okay with people having themed parties that pertain to dressing up–bring out your slutty Halloween costume if you need to. Just don't start being offensive. It's rude and THAT is when people usually start becoming uncomfortable. I'm sure when you celebrate Aussie day, Latin night, or have Jamaican Island parties, you all don't try to talk like Aussies, you don't mock the Spanish language by speaking bad Spanglish (every Latin night I have ever been to involves learning something about Latin culture and/or learning a traditionally Latin dance–may it be salsa, batchata, merengue or anything such as that….), and you don't walk around pretending to have a Jamaican accent or trying to convey the stereotype of being a pot-smoking Rastafarian (like wtf).

      The problem, to me, is the people who attended the party, not the party itself.

    3. Ally says:

      Just referring to the aussie day, latin night etc, where you said " you all don't try to talk like Aussies, you don't mock the Spanish language by speaking bad Spanglish". If they did put on these different accents at a themed party, how is that racist or offensive at all? I am Australian. If I heard of Americans having an Australian party, and putting on Australian accents, I would not find that offensive in the slightest. Putting on different accents isn't racism.

  4. imustinterject says:

    Why do I have a feeling that the posters below me are all white? I ask this because the lack of understanding the author's intent is glaringly and painfully obvious, and the quickness of jumping to the defense says a lot, too. Please, try to practice even just a smidgen of empathy and understand this Kappa Sig situation from the viewpoint of an Asian American, or any other person of color.

    First of all, to gradstudent, having an ethnic-themed party that celebrates the ethnicity is obviously acceptable. However, in this instance the fraternity was clearly mocking the Asian community. If you seriously and honestly wanted to host a celebration of an ethnicity, I would think that step one would be to, oh I don't know, enlist someone of that ethnicity to provide accurate details on their ethnicity and culture?

    Secondly, to Cata, celebrating Black History month or Cinco de Mayo are NOT derogatory because they are CELEBRATIONS of a heritage and not a mockery. A beach-themed party and a 70s themed party do not fit this argument for many reasons, mainly that beaches and decades are not people with histories of oppression and discrimination based on their skin color and culture. As for affirmative action, I am not entirely positive what this has to do with the article, but I would like to say that while ethnicity may have an impact on someone's admission to a particular college, it is not the defining factor as to whether that person gets in or not. Also, affirmative action does not just apply to race or ethnicity–it applies to gender, ability, and other characteristics. Everyone is a ____-American unless they are part of the indigenous nations that occupied this land before Europeans and Africans and others came over. However, being an Asian American or Swedish American or whatever doesn't mean that calling yourself just an American would be wrong. She is perfectly correct in calling herself an American and nothing else. You don't decide how other people self-identify; that is THEIR choice.

    Lastly, to catmama, you are right. Like I stated before, celebrations of specific groups and cultures are not racist or bigoted acts. And this is not what the author of this article is saying. She is advocating respect for other cultures and understanding of how one's actions can be offensive to others, even if YOU don't find it offensive. This is a VERY loose example, but someone may make jokes about people who wear glasses. Although generalizing isn't good, a joke about bespectacled people isn't really offensive. But if you encounter someone, or a whole group of people who DO find that offensive, it is respectful to avoid jokes about glasses while in their presence; you may even go the extra step to find out why they are offended and try to reach a point of empathy. Again, loose example (I didn't want to use a racial/gender/hot-button example), but the point is respect.

    We can celebrate other cultures and ethnic groups, but an honest celebration includes research about the group's history, consultation with members of that group about the accuracy of the celebration, and positive intent to really celebrate and even educate attendants about the culture.

    1. melissa says:

      No, you are being judgmental , the author of this article is as well. I assume those disagreeing with the idea of an Asian themed party is ASSUMING that just because it has to do with a fraternity that it is "mocking". I am sorry that there is a EXTREMELY few number of people in greek life who fit the STEREOTYPE. However a majority does not. It is not fair that people in greek life who are passionate philanthropists have to get a bad reputation just because they like to party. You would have plenty of fun too if you had large groups of people you have a close bond with. It is a shame that groups who do so much work for the greater good have to get judged and be stereotyped by people who weren't openminded enough to be apart of something so fulfilling.

    2. Kali says:

      you're clearly just part of a sorority because you're defending sororities for NO reason. no one was saying anything bad about sororities. the themed party is CLEARLY being racist. do you not see the rice hats? and the peace signs? they're clearly stereotyping asians and NOT "embracing their culture." want to take a bet on how many of those girls are squinting because asians have small eyes? there is clearly a difference between being racist and learning new cultures. if that party is full of slutty girls drinking and doing stereotypical things they think asians do then there is no other word than racism to describe what went on.

    3. Kali says:

      because that's TOTALLLY celebrating a culture and not being racist stereotypical small minded idiots.

    4. Shanthi says:

      Thank you so much imustinterject. You said what I intended very beautifully and eloquently!

  5. Krista says:

    You could have a party where you pick a country or territory, say Canada. Then everyone could try to wear authentic clothing and bring authentic food from Canada… bringing facts and trivia of that country for every one to come away learning new things.

    Also I think schools need to teach about the current ways and standings of the world instead of just their history. World History is great, but if we don't learn more about the more current ways of others, we just keep the (Sometimes Hurtful) stereotypes.

  6. melissa says:

    why in the world would someone consider that racist ? It is actually the exact opposite and if any Asian person feels like this is mocking them then they are overly insecure. Of course it opens the door for a few people to be immature about it but other than that it is actually a form of flattery, It proves the Asian culture is unique and interesting, something someone wants to be a part of . In greek life there are so many reoccurring themes and I consider this to be a good idea for a party. I was going to be a geisha for Halloween,l i think they are beautiful i wanted to dress like that . I am half equadorian and italian does that make me racist ? Is going to a culturally themed restaurant where servers dressed as like mexicans although they are irish racist ? Not at all. Being that the chinese new year is approaching people should be ashamed for protesting against an asian themed party. Clearly you people have little time on your hands .

  7. Sara says:

    Soooo…..I guess toga parties are out now?

  8. Kali says:

    listen, this is not celebrating a culture, it's mocking one. the girls in these photos are throwing up peace signs and wearing rice hats because it's a stereotype of asian people. if their faces were shown i bet you they would be squinting because asians have small eyes. i don't see how this is considered anything but racist. look at the email they sent out… you're telling me that's not racist? or asians not being able to say "L" is celebrating their culture. stop being ignorant.

  9. 1reddiva83 says:

    I do not agree with ethnic themed parties. And for people to look at those pictures and say hmm that's ok have to be kidding themselves. To the author, African Americans didn't just start their fraternities and sororities because they just wanted to hang with their own. It was created because in 1906 and 1908 ,white members did not want African American to be apart. Before you comment on why other ethinicties made their own maybe you should have done som research.

    1. Melissa says:

      in the 1900's unfortunately there were many things African Americans were not allowed to be apart therefore it was standard AND NOT MADE FOR THAT REASON and the same went for WOMEN of so your facts aren't straight .. less then 20 years later women and men grew to make NON- SECRETARIAN social fraternities and sororities to unite all races and colors across college campuses. This Union of fraternities and sororities is what made one of the largest impacts and grew the student voice across american and helped the movement. Watch old tapes of protests for rights of African American and Women and see the majority of Sororities and Fraternities versus the average citizen they took part in all those movements. tisk tisk do your research. In the Greek community we celebrate these strides every day and teach the younger genegeration the lessons of our ancestors and to propose their strength with the idea that if they could make it through all the adversity that we have faced in history there is no reason for us to slack and not give as much as we can to the world in our philanthropies.

    2. Melissa says:

      I meant races and Religions **

  10. kofoadebiyi says:

    Reblogged this on The Debut and commented:
    i don’t agree with everything on this post but there is some sense in this

  11. Mels says:

    I'm not concerned by the fact that people think that themed parties are okay. They're totally fine. I don't see anything offensive about the pictures, but that is only because their faces are blurred out and we don't exactly see what they are doing. Asians aren't the only ones who hold up peace signs in pictures and if I were asked to go to an Asian themed party on short notice and/or a small budget, the only thing I would feel somewhat comfortable wearing is a rice hat.

    That being said, there is a fine line between having fun and being offensive. I understand people are trying to point out the fact that there are instances where people have parties pertaining to different cultures and that there are days and months that celebrate cultures, but those are celebrations or times to just have fun (i.e.- toga parties).

    I honestly believe that if the Kappa Sigma fraternity had simply said "Hey guys, we're having an Asian themed party wut wut" there wouldn't be such an uproar. But they had to go the extra step and say "Herro everybody" and "Chank you." They were being offensive. Just like the Alexandra Wallace incident with her "Ching Chong" speak, in an attempt to mock any Asian language. She was being offensive.

    You don't go into Black History Month dropping the n-word everywhere, you don't go to a toga party being whatever the stereotype for a Greek person is, you don't go to a Cinco de Mayo party mocking the Latin culture, etc etc. I'm sure some of the people didn't go to this Asian themed party to mock the Asian culture–maybe someone wanted to bring out that $60 (insert "sexy"-thing here) Halloween costume so that it wasn't a complete waste of money. Unfortunately, sometimes people just can't handle themselves properly and they cross that line into offensive territory, which is (as I said before) what the Kappa Sigma boys had done while advertising.


    TL;DR- some people are ignorant and ruin things for the rest of us. I understand that there can be fun in having a (insert culture here)-themed party, but don't be offensive to the point that it will cross the line into racism.

    1. jmg says:

      just because it's not offensive to you, does not mean others who are from Asia or of Asian descent would not be offended.
      Also to note- "asian" halloween costumes or costumes depicting cultures that you do not belong to should not be worn. you should not allow the commodification, objectification and over-generalization of people's cultures, ethnicities and beliefs. it's just not right.
      yes, you can celebrate other cultures; yes, you can attend cultural events; yes, you can learn about other cultures. you cannot wear another person's culture or ethnicity as a costume and you cannot use another person's culture to theme a party for lack of a better idea.

  12. Morgan says:

    lol people need to come down, like why over react over something so harmless, you say why not do 70s themed parties, well if i use your knowledge then i guess i would be making fun of people from the 70s? i mean honestly if someone had a canadian themed party in a place shaped like an igloo and fake polar bears everywhere i would find it pretty hilarious, your making a big deal out of somthing that is not a big deal at all.

    1. jmg says:

      i'm canadian and i wouldnt think its hilarious, just idiotic. and canadians aren't a race, we are the inhabitants of a country.

  13. morgan says:

    its reasons like this article that racism still exists, like morgan freeman said , how do you stop racism, simple, stop talking about it, like you are way to sensitive to this, i would label this under the same category as people who cut themselves cause justin bieber smokes weed, they clearly have mental problems.

  14. Allaya says:

    I do agree that themed parties can be offensive, but however some can be very educational. Every year I attend my colleges bollywood party- and I've learned alot! They play traditinal Indian music, show traditional outfits, and even the food – it has helped me to learn alot more about the culture and was still fun at the same time :) I definitely agree that there is differnece between a celebration mocking an ethniticity and one educating on it.

    However I must disagree with where you write "Having an ethnic themed party is not acceptable no matter what people say. The only time I would ever say it is acceptable is if the people who are having the party are of that ethnicity. Then only is it called a joke." I find this line completely hipocritical… so if I'm making fun of my own ethnicity or race it's perfectly aceptable?.. i don't think so.. If you want people to respect you, you have to respect yourself first and model what is appropriate :D

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