One day after the national day of remembrance and celebration dedicated to the life and sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Arizona State University chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon threw an MLK Day party in which the theme was dressing and acting black.
They didn’t dress up as Medgar Evers, Stokley Carmichael, Cornel West, Barack Obama or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They didn’t conduct themselves to reflect a race of people, who through peaceful protest and intellect, forced a racist nation to acknowledge their human right to dignity. To equality.
That would be an accurate depiction of the majority of black America.
The college students decided for that day they would combine all the negative stereotypes of black Americans into a derogatory caricature and act like ignoramuses in disdain of Dr. King.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity posted party photos on Instagram wearing oversized basketball jerseys, bandanas, sagging pants, flashing gang signs, drinking out of watermelons with bananas tucked into their waistlines. They were even wretched enough to accompany the party photos with hashtags such as #hood, #ihaveadream, and #blackoutformlk.
The ASU-TKE chapter was recently reinstated as a fraternity after being suspended for a debacle involving more than a dozen TKE frat members assaulting members of rival fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon in November of 2012.
ASU responded to TKE’s MLK Black Party by immediately suspending the chapter’s operations and promising “additional action against the individuals involved” because at the time of the party TKE was on social probation and prohibited from having parties.
Three days later, ASU followed through with its vow to punish this wrong by abolishing the TKE chapter’s recognition as a fraternity on the ASU campus and is continuing to investigate individual TKE members and other students who attended the party.
The university is not alone in distancing themselves from the actions of a deplorable few. The Tau Kappa Epsilon International fraternity apologized for the actions of its chapter, stating: “TKE does not condone or support any actions by its members that would be defined as racist, discriminatory and/or offensive.
Social events with “party themes” that are defined as such have no place in our fraternity’s mission or purpose. It is with embarrassment and regret when a few individuals within our organization make decisions that do not align with the values and principles of TKE”
TKE, established in 1899, is one of the largest college social fraternities in the world, with chapters in almost 300 campuses in North America and more than 265,000 members, most of whom are not racist and a considerable number are black.
What might a national response be if a predominantly black college fraternity threw a JFK Day white party with members and attendants wearing bibbed overalls, drinking Natural Light, flaunting counterfeit crystal meth, and sporting temporary tattoo swastikas?
Would there be more of a public outcry if the hashtags read #redneck, #whiteoutforjfk and #asknotwhatyourcountrycandoforyou?
This could very well incite a renewal of racial tension in America or it can serve as a reminder that an ignorant minority of us still cling to racial sentiments toward men, women, everyone. Where the aftermath of this event takes us is totally up to us.
ASU and TKE both stood steadfast in disapproval of the chapter’s actions, ASU answering with quick permanent decisive action and TKE issuing a humble apology for its chapter clarifying in no way do the decisions of an ill-advised few reflect the understanding of the whole.
The ASU-TKE chapter does not represent anyone other than itself and the ignorance should disgrace the members who participated and those members alone. Much more can be said of the ASU-TKE chapter, but why? It has succeeded in making itself irrelevant. Our neighbors are still our neighbors and our friends are still our friends despite ethnicity and/or sexual preference. The majority of us do not share the ASU-TKE chapter’s view of our fellow man and we have to be aware of and secure in that fact. As a people we cannot allow hatred to sabotage peace and progress.