UCSD’s racist event should spur universities to prevent harassment

March 31, 2010 — by Parul Singh and Christine Bancroft

Fraternities on the UC San Diego campus allegedly hosted a party mocking African Americans and Black History Month on Feb. 15. Dubbing the event the “Compton Cookout,” the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity instructed attendees to wear clothing no smaller than extra-extra large and asked women to dress as “ghetto chicks” in an attempt to perpetuate racial stereotypes.

“Several of the regents’ condos will be teaming up to house this monstrosity, so travel house to house and experience the various elements of life in the ghetto,” read the Facebook invitation, which continues to say, “The objective is for all you lovely ladies to look, act, and essentially take on these ‘respectable’ qualities throughout the day.” Additionally, this bizarre invitation encourages UCSD students to don gold teeth, start fights and drama and wear cheap clothes.

This event sparked outrage among university students and people across California. A political firestorm erupted and university officials have condemned the “cookout,” calling it “a blatant defiance of campus values.”

The most probable reason African-Americans were targeted is not a particularly shocking one; after all, they’re a minority on that particular campus. The small community of African-American students only make up 1.3 percent percent of the student population, while Asian students make up 49 percent and Caucasians make up 27 percent. Clearly, this unequal representation of all races shows the need for affirmative action in order to increase understanding and acceptance of different races and cultures. With a more equal ratio of races, events such as the Compton Cookout would be less likely to occur.

School officials are unable to reprimand attendees, mostly because students are protected under the First Amendment clauses of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. While many would agree that the party was outrageous by all accounts, there is very little that anyone can do.

This event, although nonviolent, still bears a certain resemblance to the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. The biggest shock to most people in the area was that such a level of racism still exits among the young population. College-bound students are supposed to be the most open to new ideas, being fresh out of their high school bubble and out in the real world. Yet surprisingly, some are still stuck in the racist ideas of the past. Not only this sort of discrimination exist toward African-Americans, but also toward people of all minority races, women and homosexuals.

Administrators at the UCSD campus could create classes or seminars on campus to try to prevent such “cookouts” from occurring again. Attempting to dissuade the student community from organizing events and balancing the percentages of different backgrounds who attend the school will lower the instances where shocking acts of harassment occur. Also, media outlets should give as little consideration as possible to these people. The more of the public’s attention they receive, the stronger they will get. They will organize more events and make each more scandalous than the previous.

If university authorities can educate the student community about racism and harassment, the campus will become a safer place for all people, not only for African-American or minority students. All kinds of harassment will be lowered, including that of women and homosexuals, because students will be more aware of the effects of such behavior. From this point on, there can only be progress. While everyone will agree that the Compton Cookout was shocking, it can also be an eye-opener for university officials all over the country and move them to take further action to prevent these events from over occurring in the first place.

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