If you just got the invite to that racist Asian-themed party last week at Duke University (I know it was in your spam box), don’t worry. You didn’t miss anything. It was the same old racist fare, standard ching-chong stuff–people dressed in sumo gear and rice paddy hats and showing off their racist chic while everyone gets roaring greek drunk on sake, of course.
We’ve seen it all before, and now a new generation gets to experience what I like to call “the regurgitation of ignorance.”
That’s the discouraging thing about the self-proclaimed “racist rage” at the Kappa Sigma frat party last weekend.
They should have known better. But they didn’t. I suppose since they are young, with minds fragile and impressionable, they’re just spewing out the kind of “harmless” stuff they see or hear in American pop culture. Now you know why when a stupid DJ does accented jokes, it’s not nearly as harmless as anyone thinks. And it’s not a matter of protestors being humorless. There just comes a time when you have to be more clever than “Herro Duke Peopre.”
As an Asian American, I use a simple algebraic expression to determine the presence of racism. You’ve all heard of “substitution.” In my solve for “x,” I simply ask myself whether the Dukies would have done the same with black people? Substitute the rice paddy hats and sumo stuff for blackface. Maybe have a Buckwheat lookalike contest.
Wouldn’t happen. Of course, it doesn’t mean Duke treats black students any better. Early last year, a group of black students attempted to engage the university in a dialogue to improve campus life for African Americans at Duke. The president of the school couldn’t make time for them.
Still, Dukies know there’s a sensitivity about blacks and racism. They’re in the South for goodness sakes.
These Dukies aren’t that dumb. Duke has an 11.9 percent acceptance rate. These students should know the difference between racism and good old greek fun.
But racism against Asians? That’s like exotic avant-garde racism in the South.
Who cares about Asians, right? Such a small minority. And who really loves Kim Jong Il, or Un, a subject of one of the frat party’s racist memes?
This is the irony of Duke and our nation’s growing sense of diversity.
In North Carolina, Asian Americans have nearly tripled in number since 1990. From less than one percent of the state’s population, Asian Americans are now 2.2 percent of North Carolina, with more than 210,000 people, according to the 2010 Census.
Asian Americans are still a micro-minority, and they still need to work with others to make an impact in their communities. But the situation isn’t quite so micro on campus at Duke.
Duke’s demographics are fairly typical of the trend at many an elite university. Whites have lost majority status.
At Duke, non-Hispanic whites are the leading minority at 47 percent, but guess who’s No. 2?
African Americans? Nope, they’re fourth at 10 percent. “Unknown/International” at 16 percent is third.
And holding down the No. 2 spot with 21 percent: Asian Americans.
More numerous than blacks on campus, the No. 2 minority, and the amount of respect Asian Americans get, is reflected by the weekend frat party.
Now that the frat has been suspended nationally, and remorse has been expressed by the frat president, it’s over, right?
Not until the next racist frat party, most assuredly coming up soon. Unfortunately, there’s a history here at Duke, where one frat once held a “Pilgrims and Indians” party, encouraging co-eds to find their inner “Pocahotness.”
What the frats fail to understand is you can be “edgy” if the edge is on you. So, here’s a suggestion for these majority white fraternities. Next time, how about a party that pokes fun at stupid white people. At Duke, I’m sure a “come as your favorite Deliverance character” would have some self-deprecating appeal.
Or consider the sexiness of staging a Jesse Helms look-alike contest. OK, then how about an “illegitimate children of Strom Thurmond” party?
Now that would be funnier than some lame Asian-theme frat party.