A UCLA fraternity is the latest Greek organization to land in hot water for throwing a party centered around offensive racial stereotypes. Los Angeles station KNBC-TV reports the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity threw a “Kanye Western” party, in conjunction with the Alpha Phi sorority, where partygoers were encouraged to wear clothing that mocked Black culture such as do-rags, baggy pants and blackface. Some partygoers came dressed as the Kardashians. Rapper Kanye West is married to reality star Kim Kardashian, who is known for her high-profile relationships with Black men.
The party took place during Black Bruin Week, a period where students of color are made aware of the university’s resources. Pictures of the partygoers were uploaded to social media and later picked up by The Daily Bruin, the school newspaper.
Black students at UCLA were upset at the offensive pictures.
“We don’t really know who was in that party. But pictures we saw — blackface without the paint,” said Janay Williams, chair of the African Student Union, in an interview with KNBC. “There were people dressed in like do-rags, people dressed as ‘thugs, rappers.’ Just making a mockery of Black culture.”
According to The Daily Bruin, the presidents of Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi did not respond to requests for interviews. UCLA released a statement condemning the event for being insensitive.
“We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community. Put simply: Just because you can do something does not mean you should,” said the university.
Hip hop website XXL reported that Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national office had temporarily suspended the chapter and launched an investigation. Greek parties featuring offensive stereotypes have been happening on a regular basis over several decades. So it seems that Greek organizations are aware of the offense they cause, but just don’t care.
Earlier this year, the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was shut down after video leaked of members engaging in a fraternity song featuring racial slurs.