Here we go again.
The age-old fraternal tradition of hosting inappropriate, racially-insensitive parties is coming in hot this spring semester, and it has now gone bicoastal. Just a few weeks after the Kappa Sigma fraternity at Duke made headlines for proceeding with their Asian-themed blowout in the wake of mass criticism from the university community, Pi Kappa Phi At USC planned a ‘Racist Rager’ of their own. But unlike their east coast cohorts, this party — called “Phi-esta” for its Mexican theme — was called off after a USC student wrote an op-ed piece for the Daily Trojan, where she pointed out that such theme parties can be pretty offensive, something that should be very commonsensical by this point.
Partygoers were encouraged to wear sombreros and other various Mexican-y accessories, and as this article points out, USC and its surrounding community is largely Latino:
It was a Mexican-themed event and the USC campus is literally surrounded by Latinos: the communities that surround USC are all predominantly Latino. The most recent Census data also found Latinos make up 47.7% of the population in Los Angeles, with Mexicans making up the majority of the group.
The emboldened USC student whose words encouraged the fraternity to pull the plug on this Phi-esta, Melissa Morales, wrote the following:
The brothers of Pi Kappa Phi are holding a “phi-esta.” That in itself does not seem too concerning, but when accompanied by a blatantly racist photo and a statement saying that partygoers should bring their “sombreros and accentos to a night of classy fun,” the mockery starts to peek through. The description then goes on to clear up any confusion about what to wear by encouraging viewers to look to the photo depicting two shirtless Mexican men in sombreros for inspiration.
I love a fiesta and a good margarita as much as the next girl, but not when it is just an excuse to make racist jokes and poke fun at a different culture. There is a big difference between celebrating a culture and mocking it.
A few hours after the event was posted, the description was edited to include “what not to expect”: “border patrol, pickpockets, those kids selling you chicle gum, [and] Montezuma’s Revenge.” Classy, indeed.
Shit, guys. It’s tough to play off a theme like this as a harmless one when you throw in that last line. Portraying Mexicans as illegal, pick-pocketing chewing gum peddlers with irritable bowels is going to throw up red flags all over the place. It’s as if they intended to cause a stir, and on the heels of the national attention received by the Duke fraternity, maybe this was, indeed, an attention whoring effort. That’s not the kind of attention you want, though. So if it was a publicity ploy, it makes them look even more socially inept than if they only planned a racist rager.
It got me thinking, though: how would this line (above in bold) of the flyer read if the party was a white-themed one? Something like this, perhaps:
What not to expect: X-Box Live headsets, student loan debt, those kids selling you girl scout cookies in grocery store parking lots, and various illegal narcotic abuse.
Spencer Weissberg, Pi Kappa Phi President, issued a seemingly sincere apology to his fellow students in the Daily Trojan, in which he states the members responsible for planning the party will be “facing expulsion” from the fraternity.
Note: the image used above was not created by the fraternity.