There's no shortage of college parties with racist themes as of late. Last week Penn State's chapter of Chi Omega sorority apologized after a photo of members dressed in Mexican garb appeared online. The photo, taken around Halloween, shows members in ponchos and sombreros carrying signs that read: "Will Mow Lawn for Weed and Beer" and "I Don't Cut Grass, I Smoke It."
The photos demonstrate that when people dress up in racial drag, they're not doing so simply to have fun but mainly to promote racial stereotypes. In other words, they're not dressing up as another ethnic group to pay homage to said group (as some have argued) but to poke fun of them, often using pejorative and inflammatory generalizations. The signs the women held are especially trouble given that they reduce the hardworking Latinos in the landscaping sector to drunks and potheads.
Ariel Colonel, president of the Penn State Latino Caucus, was far from amused by Chi Omega's antics. "This is not a joke. This is our culture," she told CNN. Coronel took particular offense to the signs the sorority members held. "There's a huge drug war going on in Mexico and you have a sign that says, 'We will mow lawns for weed and beer.' It's wrong on so many levels. How can you think this is OK?"
I have the same question, especially because so many similar college parties have garnered negative attention. These girls don't live in a vacuum. I can't believe that a few members of this sorority didn't have qualms about this Mexican dress-up party. Some of the women pictured appear to be from minority backgrounds. It's particularly sad that they didn't object to taking part in an event designed to disparage a minority group.
Racially themed college parties have become such a problem that I think universities need to begin discussing them at orientation, just as they discuss the dangers of binge and underage drinking. If that were to happen, students would have no excuse to claim it was all innocent fun when they organize parties that solely aim to put another race down. Moreover, students of color would deel supported knowing that the colleges they have chosen to attend actively stand against racial intolerance.