Posted by: eliseanne | February 26, 2010

I dont want to write this but I have to

I have to tell the truth, and I have to tell the stories and lift tup the voices that are untold and unheard.  Because I have a privileged voice, and because so many of my people are uneducated and miseducated. I can’t ignore that, or just choose to forget and go about my day. I choose to tell the stories and bring out the ignored voices.  It is my responsibility, and my choice; I am compelled to do it.

I don’t even have the words, to express how angry I am feeling…

*Trigger warning (Racism)*

The “Compton Cookout” at UCSD

Perhaps you heard about it already, perhaps you didn’t. I suppose it depends on how much you follow the news, and really, who you get your news from. I heard about this last week, but didn’t write about it. Now I learned more, and I can’t choose to ignore it again (it is privilege that I even think I can have that “choice”…).

Thanks to Resist Racism who provides and connects a lot of the details that “mainstream” media leaves out, especially outside of California.

People from the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and other groups at the University of California San Diego chose to mock Black History Month and what they deemed to be black culture or black people, with a racist and hateful cookout.  They served watermelon, fried chicken, purple “drank” and malt liquor. They told people to come with gold teeth, cheap clothes, tattoos, big Ts, chains, and cheap weave or nappy hair. They are told to use a limited or made-up vocabulary, speak loudly, curse often, and start fights. The party was happening across several houses, so people were supposed to travel between them and experience “life in the ghetto.” So this is who they think black people are, and this is what they think the history is and what they think is worth “celebrating.”

It makes me almost as angry that a lot of my people won’t get why it is so horrific and it will have to be endlessly explained…just for them to get more entrenched in their racist mentalities.

For example: UCSD TV news anchor, who when covering the protests of the people of color and their allies on campus, said, “ungrateful n—–s!” on air. Later a slip of paper was found in the studio that said “Compton Lynchings.”

“How much sense does it make to organize a party others consider to be racist and then defend the decision to have the party by invoking racist slurs? That alone rules out any argument that this is a freedom of speech issue and that black students on campus are simply too sensitive,” writes a blogger at Racialicious.

For example: Mike. Mike took it upon himself to host a second party, “Compton Cookout Part Deux: First Amendment Pride,” as a counter-protest, to the “ignorant” and “horrendously misguided” protests by people of color and their allies. This time the party was open to mocking a variety of groups: Jewish, Irish, Mexican, Arabic, Black, Chinese, Gay, Polish, Russian, Italian people are all listed with crude slurs and hurtful stereotype references (“Crackers” were mentioned in the list as well, but racial slurs don’t have the same weight when they are against the dominant group with all of the social power…).

Mike didn’t stop there. He goes on and on about how there is nothing wrong with mocking other people’s cultures, how it is painless satire that is pure fun and joy, a celebration of diversity, if you will.  He says, in screaming capital letters, that no one at the party was preaching hate, and in fact no specific ideals were being pushed, they just wanted to eat some chicken and liquor.   If people believe in “civil rights” we should be upset that this party was denounced, and our compassion is “misplaced.”  The people were harmless, he says, and it would be a “tragedy” if they were punished at all.

He calls the protestors children and idiots, who are ignorant and stupid.

It’s like he is saying, “Can’t we all just get along while those of us with the power have innocent fun by mocking your culture and making outrageously condescending and crude statements steeped in a history of oppression and genocide, about your entire people group, identity, and race? And can those of us in power stay pridefully ignorant to closed off to the reality of what is going on so that we can be right and keep having fun at your expense for the rest of our lives and for the preservation of our power? You are too stupid to understand our right to do this and your obligation to like it!”

He says he is upholding the rights of all people and respecting differences. But Mike is beyond confused. Now I acknowledge that the vast majority of my people are raised not knowing we are white, not knowing that racism exists (ok, some know that really bad racist things used to happen…), not knowing we have privilege in this USA because of our skin and history, and having no clue what people of color go through or how they experience things we think are “harmless fun.” The average white person comes with this context and baggage, and is sometimes not consciously holding racist thoughts, or not conscious that the thoughts they do hold are racist.

So even if, if if if, Mike is that much a truly ignorant racially-sheltered white guy…he still should have stopped and listened to the voices of the people protesting. When I acknowledge  that I wasn’t born an anti-racist ally, either, I try to stretch my empathy out for my people and understand their ignorance to the greatest degree, not as an excuse for their thoughts but as a context.  But that stops with Mike. There is no ignorance, privileged, or racially-sheltered context to explain such a public and blatant display of disgusting pride and combativeness.

It also stops with the organizers of the cookout. I think my understanding of a racially-sheltered and privileged ignorant context stretches to random comments, or maybe to something like mocking an accent/language.  They are horrific and wrong, though I can understand why some white people dont think about that (but their ignorance or intentions do not matter when discussing the pain they cause or the fact that they are wrong). Perhaps I am stretching that context too far even with that.

But I cannot fathom that going to the lengths of planning and describing this kind of event did not have any racist intentions behind it. The only context for understanding that is a context of racism and ethnocentrism.

UPDATE:
For example: A noose was found in the library at UCSD. And the school newspaper received notice that more will be coming.  The noose is about as blatant of an extreme racist symbol as they come.  Add this to the Compton Cookout, and you get a picture of the past where ancestors of me, many of you, Mike, the news anchor, the Pike guys, and the noose people, all gathered to have barbeques and lynch black people.

Racism and white supremacy are alive and well at UCSD and in many, many other parts of this USA. I pray that it stops here, now, and that violence will not be what we hear about next.

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Responses

  1. The noose. So, what exactly will the excuses be for this cowardly act that brings up memories of the confederate KKK of the South in their attempts to keep slavery and the non-whites in fear? Is it that are uneducated, is it that they are live in fear because our President in the white house is not 100% white. This is what the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” have brought you. These kids follow what their dullard leaders say. Are you surprise at what they do when you know what they think?

    • I too wonder what people will who were once defending all this will say now about this being “harmless fun”…

      But maybe you were asking me if I was going to be making excuses for them. If that is the intent of your comment, I am sorry if my post sounded like I was making excuses for racism, and I am sorry if that hurt you or anyone else. Making excuses is unacceptable and I do not want to do that, nor do I want to hurt you or others by that.

    • Also, Montana, name calling and other such non-critical analysis is not welcome here. Different perspectives are welcomed here, but not dagger throwing.

  2. Thanks for bringing this further into the light. My students and I have been discussing racism a lot recently, why it occurs, how it makes us feel, etc. Do you know of anywhere in “mainstream media” that this has been covered? -Kelsey

    • The website I linked to, Resist Racism, lists a lot of their links. Most are California papers online, or like NBC San Diego.


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