Sunday, October 15, 2006

What a Bunch of Ignorant Crackers....

Come closer. We need to talk about something that is apparently becoming a recurring problem: Texas students having racially-themed parties.

I'm not naive enough to think that students in other states aren't doing it too, but I'm not hearing about them, so I'm going to work with what I've got here.

First, in Spring 2006, one of the fraternities at a private, Baptastic university in central Texas held an E-Dawg-themed party. The big stir hit when pictures of the party surfaced on Facebook featuring one girl who had slathered herself in self-tanner, presumably to appear "blacker." When this came out, I read a lot of what was written and thought, "Well, that was stupid. Yawn." I mean, it was foolish, but not so remarkable. It's not a great idea, but I could see how a bunch of boys around a beer keg could decide that it was okay.

Appropriately, the school's response was fairly swift and very PR-oriented. Students received emails expressing regret and understanding and discussions were held wherein people prayed and talked about their feelings and diversity. Okay. Yawn, again. Standard fare.

Then, just recently, a group of students at the state's largest law school held a similar party themed "Ghetto Fabulous." As far as I know, no pictures have been leaked yet. I find this controversy to be far more interesting. For one, only approximately 61.54% of that law school's students are white. My guess would be that percentage was much higher in the private undergraduate institution (I couldn't find the actual numbers.) Also, presumably, a group of graduate students would be more sensitive to the implications of celebrating unflattering racial and socioeconomic steroetypes both because of age and because of education. Finally, the law students in question already had the E-Dawg example before them as proof that this sort of thing is not well received by a good many people, and understandably so. All that to say that I find it interesting that against the backdrop of broader diversity, a presumption (rebuttable, clearly) of higher average maturity and level of education, and a common knowledge of prior such incidents, the law students chose to do this anyway.

Bravo. I want you taking my case.

However, even more interesting, is the dean's e-mail to the law students. Whereas the response in the fraternity party situation was one of at least apparent remorse and attempts at understanding, it appears that the law school took a rather, well, flip view of things. The e-mail suggested that next time the students thought about having such a party they ought to "think twice" and that they would have plenty of opportunity to screw minorities once they were lawyers. Now, again, I'm not so stupid as to think she was serious in that comment or that it was a suggestion of any kind, but it did show a marked lack of respect for the sensibilities those who were offended by the party. In short, it wasn't very PR-friendly.

The dean was also quoted as saying something along the lines that in the end this wasn't about discipline but was about education. Hmm.

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