After an Arizona State University fraternity prompted national outrage by celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday earlier this week by holding a party mocking Black people, the university has moved to suspend Tau Kappa Epsilon, and will take action against the individuals involved.
It won’t be difficult for the university to identify many of the individuals involved because the fraternity encouraged guests to attend its “Black Party” by wearing hoodies, baggy basketball jerseys, bandannas and sagging pants, and then post photos of themselves on social media with the hashtags #blackoutformlk, #ihaveadream and #mlkparty. At the party, students drank from cups made out of hollowed-out watermelons.
Though the Instagram accounts for the partygoers have since been deleted, the photos have spread virally across the Internet, showing white kids wearing outfits mocking Blacks.
The university released a statement saying TKE was already on disciplinary probation since 2012—when members allegedly were involved in a brawl—and that the party was held off campus and not sanctioned by the school.
“Because of the latest incident, ASU has suspended chapter operations, can and will take additional action against the individuals involved, and is meeting with the national TKE organization today to take further action against the chapter,” the statement said. “ASU has one of the most diverse student bodies of any major university in the country, and it is unfortunate that a few misguided individuals held an offensive party at a time when ASU, the state and the nation are celebrating Dr. King’s achievements and legacy. ”
Arizona civil rights activist Rev. Jarrett Maupin told radio KTAR that he was alerted to the party by a Black invitee who said guests were instructed to “dress like Black people.”
“An estimated 80 to 100 people took part in ritualistic racism,” Maupin told KTAR. “That’s very dangerous, especially on a university campus. A cup made out of a watermelon is advanced racism. Dressing up like, quote, ‘Black people’ — that requires research and is advanced racism. We’re not talking about rookie racists.”
In an open letter to the “brothers of Tau Kappa Epsilon,” Ja-Han Jones, president of the African American Men of Arizona State University, said the party was “your most recent egregious act of denigration toward the African-American community.”
“I am concerned that your fraternal structure is transforming into an echo chamber for racism,” his letter said. “And further, I am concerned that not a man stood among you brothers with the foresight to predict the shame such an event would heap upon your organization. Again, I must ask: Why? Why would a man degrade himself to such lows — degrade his organization to such lows — for such paltry praise. Perhaps, I — we of the AAMASU community, of the African-American community, of the national community, and of the global community — may never know.”
A spokesman for TKE in Indiana apologized for the actions of the frat.
The fraternity “does not condone or support any actions by its members that would be defined as racist, discriminatory, and/or offensive,” said the statement by Alex Baker. “Social events with ‘party themes’ that are defined as such have no place in our fraternity’s mission or purpose. It is with embarrassment and regret when a few individuals within our organization make decisions that do not align with the values and principles of Tau Kappa Epsilon.”
Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity reportedly sent a member of its professional staff to Arizona State University to conduct an investigation.