Saturday, October 13, 2007

What do neocons have to do with blackface and green card parties?

"Hey Ted, you goin' to the green card party tonight? Remember to bring your wife beater. Best look like a real chullo. You know, f'in crips and bloods! West Side!"
"Yo Dan, I want at least two cases of 40s at the party tonight. Remember McClellan, A 43.
"Hey Erin, don't you want to look a little skankier? I mean, it's the ghetto party after all. I like your outfit and all, but what if you showed a little more skin? And I mean, gold plastic jewelry's a plus."
"Hey José, did you get the facebook invite to the green card par..oh, sorry. It's just a joke, you know? We didn't mean it like that. I...we love your culture. The guy who looks after the frat is a Latino. I went to public school. I'm part Irish, you know.. eh.. immigrants, unite! Eh.. I guess you're not coming, huh?"

Last semester, I remember going with Camille back to her room to hang out, and on our way upstairs, running into white college kids in oversized jerseys, baggy jeans, tipped-off baseball caps, you know the deal. There may or may not have been plastic gold jewelry. The source was none other than Camille's own suite, where every time the door screeched open, another action figure from the Appropriated Ghetto Playset walked in...rolling deep...with his thug crew and a girl who looked liked she missed the memo on How to Dress Ghetto and made up for it by just wearing fewer clothes.

So here Camille and I are, only folks of color in the suite at the time, standing as these characters file in and out. We opt to...bounce...instead of seeing the party through to its disastrous end (ya know, before they whip out the Kanye). But what does anyone do when not just your college, but the very place you live is host to a modern-day minstrel show? Point being, you can't even run back to your room to get away from it.

What happened last semester's probably not the first time it's happened at Yale or at colleges around the country (just google 'ghetto party' for starters) and probably not the last. After reading about how Arab American is the new cool, I'm waiting for the night when I walk through Timothy Dwight and get accosted by a band of scruffy, toy gun totin' mujahidin wannabees (Afghan, Arab, what's the difference; it's not like you're responsible for anyone else's history, right?). Six months later, it's time to complicate my criticism of McClellan's Jammin' Hip-hop hoedown.

Two professors, C. Richard King and David Leonard, are looking at ghetto parties through a new lens that goes beyond making connections to black face and minstrel shows. King and Leonard see this unfortunate trend as a nervous swat back by conservative college kids at what they see as a changing academic environment where daddy's old-school bigotry is passé and classes like ethnic studies are holding people accountable for history's injustices.

The article takes an interesting look at the corporatization of colleges and universities, beyond corporate branding and ownership of campus food services, that reaches into classes like cultural sensitivity for future I-Bankers of America (which bumps the seminar on Race, Hip Hop, and the NBA off the course list). The article then goes through the rise of big money neoconservative campus activism, wherein some organizations pump millions into getting their message across (one of which, namely, is 'white students are the victims now, haven't we already done enough for minorities?'). And how that translates into it seeming like a valid political position to stand behind a white-only bake sale or to do mock ICE-terror raids.

The article's not going to point you to why or how these campus minstrel shows started (or for a visual-historical breakdown, as I was hoping) but it gives a good background for understanding how this mockery (or, let's go far as to say hate crime) goes unnoticed or viciously defended on American campuses.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lijah--

I linked to your post from the newsfeed on the Student Nation page.


Camille said...

Unfortunately, since you've been away from school, the same team had a ghetto party. I guess some people never learn..

Naima said...

in other news, at yale this semester there has also been a "cowboys and indians" party, the weekend after indigenous people's day. NOT to mention, the women were encouraged to dress up as the "indians" and men as "the cowboys." unpack that.

seems like the only way some would like to engage history and race involves a keg.

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