Systemic Racism Is Revealed in ‘Cookout’ Aftermath

I would like to thank everyone for their support, and for standing in solidarity with the community against hate speech and for the human right to be respected.

At first, I felt really discouraged because it felt like many people were supporting this ill-intentioned “free speech,” and were so reluctant to sympathize with the racial hostility that I and many others on this campus have felt because of — and even before — these incidents.

But after Feb. 24, 2010, I am more than confident that there are many non-ignorant people here at UCSD who, like me, realize the necessity of mutual respect in a public space shared by a variety of people of many affiliations and backgrounds. We stand in solidarity against these acts of hate, and will not tolerate them on this campus or any other publicly social atmosphere of our community — that includes Facebook and public fraternity activities.

The “Compton Cookout” invitation and party is a perfect example of externalizing subconsciously internalized stereotypes of American black culture, taken from the media and used as comedy for a party in celebration of Black History Month. For those who do not take this month seriously, this may have seemed like a harmless and humorous excuse to throw a party. Yet for others, it was horrifying; for those that understand Black History Month as a time to honor American black culture in ceremony of respect and appreciation, and a time to recognize suffering and accomplishments, this party was disrespectful on so many levels.

Even if it had not been the month of February, the event would have still been disrespectful, because the invitation and party itself was a mockery of low socio-economic status and a degradation of Black women. Imitation is a form of flattery and respect, a way of highlighting positive characteristics — but mockery is intended to be offensive, and shows an ignorant lack of respect for the subjects one is portraying. As a black woman, I was appalled, and honestly do not feel entirely safe walking around a campus where people could find it within their capacity to base a party on misogyny and malicious stereotypes.

This so-called representation of black culture by a group of fraternity members was based on their limited knowledge of it, and just goes to show how ignorant they truly are about the black community. Am I really surrounded by such uneducated people?

I can still hear it. “Well, if black people weren’t so offended and accepted it as a joke, there wouldn’t be a problem.” This “joke” implies all poor black people are uneducated and animalistic, with no manners. Any realistic person would interpret this as extreme sarcasm — a rhetorical device used here to express contempt for black American culture. This was subconsciously abusive behavior toward members of another race, or subliminal racism.

Please realize that negative media representations produced about minority subjects are patriarchal tools that perpetuate their oppression. Maybe if students were better educated in ethnic studies, or actually went out and affiliated themselves with other communities, they would understand that our oppression is real, and our pain is real. Stop contributing to the backbone of an institution that functions on injustice and inequality. Whiteness is not the problem — our entire capitalistic society is the problem. But when you add fuel to the engine, you make yourself part of the problem.

The event created a hostile environment (although it was not on campus, it was hosted by UCSD students for UCSD students, so it reflects directly on the school) for a minority already underwhelming underrepresented and marginalized in this area. Because of this unreceptive treatment by the few who seem to doubt that the party was insolent and fail to sympathize, we have become marginalized even more. The UCSD community should be shocked that it is contributing to the oppression of minorities in 2010.

My only relief is that the situation has remained relatively civil and no one has been hurt, because in such aggressive atmospheres, violence is often inevitable. I’d bet that if violent behavior had occurred, people would not be calling it a “joke” anymore; they would realize that the words on the party invitation and on Koala TV were fighting words, and not anything to be toyed with. Please, think of the consequences of your actions, and take accountability for them.

Though hostility was not intended, the Compton Cookout initiated racial hostilities for the personal gain of enjoyment (at the expense, mind you, of many others’ subjugation), and is historically known as racism — aka hate speech. In challenge to the First Amendment, words that “by their very nature, involve danger to the public peace” become unconstitutional (Justice Sanford, 1925 Gitlow v. New York.) I ask for support from my peers in achieving and retaining this peace by supporting the demands of the Black Student Union, which aim at stemming the intimidating climate of UCSD toward minorities and making this campus all of our campus. I have had enough of this shit, I will not get over it, and because you don’t think it is a big deal, I will make it a big fucking deal. I may only be part of 1.3 percent of this campus, but I matter. I will not give up.

Readers can contact Vernesha Potts at [email protected].

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