‘Compton Cookout’ Frat Party Draws Civil Rights Leaders’ Outrage
Yearning for a taste of “life in the ghetto” – which of course includes a bevy of gold-teethed women and plenty of fried chicken and watermelon?
Too bad you missed out on a party thrown by students at UC San Diego, many of whom belonged to the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity (the frat’s president has said it wasn’t an official event). Billed as the “Compton Cookout,” a Facebook invite to the event encouraged female attendees to show up looking like “ghetto chicks” who “usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The party’s effects will now ripple all the way across the state: ”In Sacramento, Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) said leaders of the Legislature’s black, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, gay and women’s caucuses would gather outside the Capitol on Thursday to condemn the party.”
One UCSD history professor told the Times that he was “outraged but not surprised” – and he’s precisely right. Parties like these ones – offensive, degrading, and idiotic – are hallmarks of Greek life on campuses across the country. Look, I am not under the impression that fraternities are bastions of sensitivity and subtlety – I know much better. But one only need to have not been in a coma for the past 20 years to understand how wrongheaded and likely to provoke outrage playing up racial stereotypes like these ones can be.
During my tenure at USC’s Daily Trojan, I helped oversee coverage of a similar party, this one themed “Welcome to Mexico” that included a makeshift barbed wire fence guests had to maneuver to make it inside. A Latino student filed an official complaint after passing the party, and was harassed by fraternity members for a long time afterward as all of the university condemnation got underway.
Some parties have simple, vague themes like “Heaven and Hell” or “Welcome to the Jungle” – but there are always others that unnecessarily indulge racial stereotypes. In 2007, Cornell students protested the existence of racially-themed parties after a series of offensive gatherings with themes like “South of the Border” and “Pimps and Hos.” At the University of Santa Clara, students at a 2007 party promoting Latino stereotypes came dressed as janitors, female gangsters and pregnant women. Perhaps one of the worst incidents was at Macalester College in Minnesota, when students at a “politically incorrect” party wore blackface, KKK costumes and nooses. Countless other stories like these have made the news.
College may be a time to make bad decisions; but any idiot has to know that these events are going to upset people, and land them in trouble. When they happen off campus, and organizations like fraternities obviously aren’t going to accept responsibility for them, there’s very little recourse – other than the public shame that comes their way when these parties make the news.