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. If 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?