Racist Campus Climates, Again in California

The San Diego Union-Tribune has an article about a racist “ghetto” party by University of California (San Diego) students off campus:

An invitation to the “Compton Cookout” event urged participants to wear chains, don cheap clothes and speak very loudly, according to wording circulated by outraged students and verified by campus administrators. As a guide for girls attending the event, the invitation read, “For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks — Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes. …”

White students at many colleges and universities have had these “ghetto fabulous” parties in recent years. Clearly, these white students are acting—likely regularly–out of a racist framing of whites as superior, and of African Americans and other Americans of color as odd and inferior. In this case their mocking images of African Americans seem to accent a modest range of rather old stereotypes, and include a reference to a black community in the Los Angeles area (Compton). Their emotions and narratives of superiority are on display here too.

Note too that “Outrage over UCSD Party Mocking Black Culture” is the title of the newspaper article, revealing a white racial framing by the newspaper writer or editors which appears similar to that of the white students. Gold teeth, fighting, cheap clothes seem to be their view too of “black culture.”

The university has so far responded like the racist performances are no big deal. The chancellor does not seem to be taking the racist partying very seriously since she only issued verbal statements saying “we were distressed” at the offensive party and strongly “condemn” it, but her administration has indicated that the university-recognized fraternity connected to the party will receive no sanctions of any kind for its hyper-racist activities. The meek university response includes a call for students and faculty to attend a teach-in in a few days “to explore how such incidents continue to occur today and to discuss the importance of mutual respect and civility.”

A bit slow and meely to the mark, since this is not the first such incident. University administrators seem uninterested in doing anything serious about their racist campuses, such as some required, term-length instruction in the basics of Stereotyping 101, Respect for Others 101, or Racism 101. One faculty member was also quoted in the Union-Tribune story noting there are few black faculty and students on campus, and that the university has had trouble recruiting them because “There’s something about the climate here that drives black students away.”

Indeed, “something” is not so vague, and it does drive the students away: large-scale white racism.

The article writer/editor also seems favorably inclined toward the fraternity since the article concludes by accenting (and quoting a student who graduated named Washom) that the fraternity

is known for having strong athletics, organizing philanthropic events and being diverse. “I never really found someone who wasn’t courteous or respectful of other people,” Washom said. “I couldn’t see someone doing anything deliberately racist.”

Well, I guess now he has seen it? And have the writer and editor?


  1. Hillbilly

    I’m not sure of the exact means of spreading the word to students about the party by the fraternity, but if I’m not mistaken, the incident at Hopkins a few years ago led to sanctions being put on the student group because they utilized campus resources (university e-mail). Maybe that could be applied here as well…

  2. I absolutely agree that sanctions can be imposed. The idea that this “party” is free speech is, frankly, absurd, although some try to frame it as such. First off, the interesting fact is that the organizers of the party themselves deny that there was any racist message or speech act involved at all: i.e., to them, it was just “fun,” a “party,” etc. with no greater social meaning. OK, fine, in that case, you can’t turn around and claim free speech, since you’re whole b.s. line is that you weren’t intending to say anything of substance at all. Secondly, there is an issue–especially at a public school–about the creation of hostile environments and violations of equal protection as a result. No business, for instance, could expect that they would be insulated from a lawsuit if their employees did something like this, and those are “private” entities. So too, schools should be held to the same standard.

    Finally, I think those of us in the antiracist community (as opposed to the white nationalist folks who troll these boards, because, despite being members of the master race, they apparently don’t have jobs that require much work during the day), should use things like this to mount challenges to the backlash against affirmative action. After all, the UC got rid of aff action 14 years ago. So these white students who did this crap were no doubt really “qualified” under traditional criteria of academic excellence (which is to say they were a bunch of overprivileged jackasses), but yet, had no moral or ethical compass to restrain them from acting out white racist nonsense. I think we should be calling for schools to implement character evaluations of applicants, including testing for things like racism, since, after all, most every school has a mission statement that proclaims their commitment to equity, diversity, etc…

  3. marandaNJ

    Even though I don’t agree word for word with everything posted here, I totally agree this was outrageous. Any other ethnic group [such as Polish or Italians or Jewish people] who were the victims of such ridicule at a ‘party’ would have been castigated Big Time if not expelled. Why? Cause there are probably a plethora of Jewish people, Poles and Italians etc in the faculty and administration of such colleges.Since blacks are probably outnumbered in this area, it’s given the ‘look the other way’ policy.
    Can you even imagine the discomfort of a black professor having to give a lecture in class to some of these kids a few days after the party? I’d feel like quitting. Who wouldn’t? Here’s a man with a Phd having to stand in front of these brats with a straight face?
    In business, this would never be tolerated. Lawsuits would be pending. And UC is indeed a business. But not ‘just a business’. Because it’s an institution of higher education, it should be held to a Higher Standard than most businesses because education implies building moral and ethical human beings and not merely knowledgable ones.

  4. No1KState

    . . . and to Tim and Joe’s point about the absense of “racist” intentions, let’s everybody put our thinking caps on –

    The students who play-out white supremacy in this way, do we really expect that as school teachers/police officers/bank managers/employers, they won’t play-out this “party” then? There’s nothing intentionally racist about adding a few points to a person’s loan rate – after all, “ghetto chicks and thugs” are known for not paying bills on time. There’s nothing intentionally racist about stopping and searching random blacks just enjoying a day at the park – after all, with their higher rate of violent crime, the problably have a MUCH higher rate of carrying weapons or illegal drugs. [Yes, I’m mocking you. Intentionally.]

    And it’s more than just the absense of black students and faculty, it’s the familiarity with whiteness. Like Washon said, he never really found anyone who wasn’t courteous or respectful of other people and couldn’t imagine doing anything deliberately racist. By the same token, I could say truthfully that I don’t know of any ghetto chicks who have gold teeth and start fights and drama and wear cheap clothes. So . . .

    What’s really troublesome, and irksome as well, is this continual them of “intention.” They wouldn’t be “deliberately” racist. The Americans in Haiti don’t “mean” to hurt anyone. Now of course, there’s no recourse for the young black male who didn’t “mean” to show up to class without his books or paper or hungry. But that aside, and maybe it’s just my family and my neighborhood, but the defense, “I didn’t mean to,” runs its course at about 3 years of age. After all, “That’s why you’re supposed to eat and drink in here and not in the other room where you can spill grape juice on the beige sofa.” Or better put, “That’s why we don’t use caricatures of people as costumes.”

    But, something can be said about the fact that if it were an authentic representation of the “ghetto,” there shouldn’t have been any binge drinking – that’s white folks’ stuff. And if it were authentically Compton, at least 2 of the white girls would have had to don their tennis gear ala Venus and Serena Williams.

  5. Brandon P.

    I too am disgusted by these parties, but is this really an example of racism? Note they never claim that ghetto people are black. This party seems more like an example of class prejudice than race prejudice.

  6. Yes, Brandon it’s racism. There’s an implicit association between “ghetto” and black people in this culture. While there are certainly white people who are poor, and even white people that live in ghettos, you’d be missing a huge cultural signifier not to read “ghetto” as code for “black.” Further, it’s racism because the students hosting this party are not doing so in order to celebrate the resilience of black, urban cultural life, but rather, to make fun of, denigrate, and degrade the “ghetto” culture and, more to the point, the people it represents. Racism is, fundamentally, about not seeing the humanity of other people, and that’s what this party did.
    And, just in case it wasn’t clear enough already, there’s this:
    Last week, a group of UCSD students held a party dubbed the Compton Cookout, which featured a motif full of racial stereotypes. African Americans have staged protests in the days since. On Thursday night, students on SRTV, the campus TV station, allegedly called the protesters “ungrateful n—–s.” According to the source, a note was also found on the TV studio floor that read “Compton lynching.” That note was turned over to police.”


  7. brawnspyro22

    I don’t want to be negative but the reason this faculty doesn’t do anything is because it is a social struggle for everyone. That doesn’t neglect the fact that they’re a little wimpy, but if the university changed some rules around, it would only be fair for everyone else to do the same. No one likes working for change. This is a struggle for us all. The fight starts and ends with us. This is not a problem that the school’s faculty can fix on its own. It is a joke to think so.


  1. Racist Campus Climates, Again in California :: racismreview.com | Drakz Free Online Service
  2. Racism and Anti-Racist Protests at U. of California, San Diego :: racismreview.com
  3. Colorblindness Linked to Racism Online and Off :: racismreview.com

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