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Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998:
At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed as gangsta rap artists, some sporting Afro wigs and carrying toy guns, prompted a protest…
The fraternity and sorority that sponsored the ghetto party, Chi Gamma Epsilon and Alpha Xi Delta, quickly apologized.
In the four weeks since the party, students have demonstrated and held meetings in which they discussed respect for others. Hundreds of Dartmouth’s 4,400 undergraduates have taken part.
Rahsaan Sales, 21, a black senior from Chicago who helped organize some of the events, said, ”Everyone came together to discuss an environment that could allow these things to happen, an environment where people sometimes don’t feel safe.”
James Wright, a history professor who became Dartmouth’s 16th president in September, said of the campus party: ”I was disappointed that this event happened. But I was immensely proud of the way students and the community came together.”
Well, it happened again, this time at a party sponsored by Alpha Delta fraternity and Tri-Delta sorority on July 26. At this decade’s version of a Ghetto Party, though it was formally named for the Crips and Bloods, students pretended that they were members of South Central LA’s two notorious African-American gangs:
What to say? Aside from being oblivious to the political firestorm that such an event is bound to ignite, what kind of student comes up with an idea for a party like this? Can we next expect events with caricatures of greedy Jews, each with a hawked nose and a bag of money? Or buck-toothed Japanese with thick glasses after the stereotype that was popular during WWII among many government artists (including guess who?)? After years of sensitivity training and work on cultural competence, is there no other way for students to have fun at Dartmouth College? We can certainly talk about shame here, but embarrassment is the more accurate emotion.
Addendum: The head of the campus chapter of the NAACP circulated the below e-mail:
Addendum: A member of RealTalk has written in with a comment:
I expect that there will be demands for President Hanlon to forcefully address this, particularly because he himself was a member of Alpha Delta fraternity. Maybe this will show him that things have changed since his days as an undergraduate; maybe this will show that things have stayed exactly the same.
Either way, this kind of event is unacceptable in organizations that the College wholeheartedly supports financially and verbally. Hardly a term goes by without Dean Johnson speaking about the benefits of Greek Life at the College and for undergraduates. If the College is going to aid Greek organizations by allowing these organizations to have physical plants on College land, and by providing them with help with billing and insurance, these kinds of parties can’t take place and thrive.
More importantly, the kind of mentality that would caricature Black culture, Black communities, and gang violence in America should not exist in Greek organizations at Dartmouth College. It’s not acceptable in an intellectual community, and not acceptable at a College that seeks to empower young students and future leaders. It’s not acceptable at a College that receives federal funding and one that is currently undergoing a wide-ranging federal investigation for gender, race, sex, and other forms of discrimination. This will be a test of President Hanlon’s leadership.
Addendum: I wrote to the brothers of Alpha Delta concerning the party. Here is their collective response:
Alpha Delta hosted a “Bloods and Crips Party” on the night of Friday, July 26th. The idea was never meant to be derogatory to any group, and was intended to introduce a costume theme to the party. While there was never any ill intent in the party’s theme, the brothers of Alpha Delta now realize that it was insensitive and thoughtless to make light of a very serious issue that affects many people nationwide, particularly young people. Gang violence is obviously an incredibly serious problem across America, and while we as a house failed to preemptively recognize the offensive nature of the party’s theme, the gravity of our oversight is now apparent to us.
Alpha Delta initially sought to deal with the problem internally. We have overhauled our internal management policy in regards to parties and themes, and we now have a much more rigorous process to approve party themes and ensure that no more insensitive parties get the go-ahead. We sat down with an individual who was originally offended by the party, and personally apologized for the event’s theme and our insensitivity to its gravity. The conversation gave us a greater understanding of the pain gang violence causes and how personal it is for so many people here at Dartmouth, and in the country at large. We have gained a greater appreciation for the very real effect gang violence has on members of the Dartmouth community, and the conversation has opened our eyes to a subject which we had never before fully comprehended.
However, we also realize that our event was not just offensive to a few people who attended the party, but that the party was objectively offensive. We want to issue a public apology for our oversight, insensitivity, and thoughtlessness. Alpha Delta will be meeting with OPAL and the GLC later this week to discuss what we can do moving forward to increase education and awareness, and to make sure something like this never happens again. We will also be spearheading policy reform in the fall to add to the GLC’s new member education. AD will be hosting and sponsoring programming in the fall about stereotypes on Dartmouth’s campus as well as in our society as a whole. While our actions that night were indefensible, AD is taking every possible measure to rectify our mistake.
This was clearly an instance of seriously bad judgment on our part, but we believe it will serve as an educational experience that will ultimately lead to better judgment in the future. As we grow and learn, we are becoming more self-critical about our actions and how they affect others around us.
The term “ghetto party” was never used, and was coined by administrators after the party took place. This is a patently false term that was attributed after the fact in emails within the administration.
We would also appreciate if you would redact the names of the social chairs, in the screenshot of the email invitation to the party, if you choose to publish it. The house takes responsibility as a whole for the oversight, and we don’t believe that two individuals should be publicly admonished for what was a collective failure in judgment.
The Brothers of Alpha Delta
Addendum: I have also received a note on behalf of Tri-Delt:
On behalf of Dartmouth Tri Delta, I would like to make the following statement:
We would like to extend our sincerest apology to the Dartmouth community and all those offended by the inappropriately themed recent event in which some of our members participated. We will be working with the college and Tri Delta Executive Office in order to continue to educate our members regarding cultural sensitivity and awareness.
Addendum: The College’s NAACP chapter has sent out the following e-mail:
A Call To Action,
As you have probably heard, on July 26th,Tri-Delta and Alpha Delta hosted a Bloods and Crips Party at Alpha Delta. Our peers mingled for hours while dressed as bloods or crips while using racialized language. It then turned into a “ghetto party” with racialized language, speech and dress. Over 200 individuals attended this racist and classist event.
We are asking everyone who stands for an inclusive Dartmouth to let your voice be heard. Please report this as a bias incident using this link: https://publicdocs.maxient.com/reportingform.php?DartmouthCollege&layout_id=3
You can report anonymously, but names will make the report more personal, more powerful. It takes 5 minutes and will make a powerful statement about this demeaning, degrading and outrageous event.
We are asking everyone to flood the bias incident account with our call for justice, right now.
Today we are dealing with a “ghetto” party, tomorrow it will be a Native American party, and soon after a Latino party. Students of Color are not respected on this campus, and enough is enough. The College has yet to deliver consequences to the aforementioned organizations, so we have to declare their lack of response as not only unacceptable but as disregard for our experiences.
Organizations across campus will be mobilizing for further steps. Reporting with the above link is our first step toward meaningful changes.
Dartmouth will live up to its ideals,
Afro-American Society, Dartmouth Chapter of the NAACP, Women of Color Collective, & La Alianza Latina
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