Kanye West

UCLA Is Investigating a Fraternity's Offensive 'Kanye Western' Theme Party. It Shouldn't.

Were the students mocking black people, or were they mocking Kanye West?

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Set your outrage phasers to stun: a predominantly white fraternity at the University of California-Los Angeles is in trouble for hosting a "Kanye Western" theme party that apparently included students in blackface.

According to The Los Angeles Times:

Students who attended the "Kanye Western" party thrown by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority Tuesday night wore baggy clothes or dressed like the Kardashians, and some wore blackface, the Daily Bruin reported.

After photographs of the party surfaced on social media, some students said the organizations' actions were racist and mocked black culture, reigniting the social media hashtag #BlackBruinsMatter.

Alicia Frison, a black student union member, told The Times that another student notified her and other members about the party after photographing some female partygoers who were wearing gold and had soot on their faces. Other female partygoers wore large fake butts and were balancing water bottles like Kim Kardashian did in an infamous photo shoot for Paper magazine.

While I can see why black students were offended, it's not clear to me that the partygoers were actually wearing blackface. The people with soot on their face, I gather, were dressed up as miners, or "gold diggers," in reference to the famous Kanye West song. The large fake butts are a clear reference to Kim Kardashian, i.e., Bride of Kanye. Indeed, it doesn't seem like costumed partygoers intended to disparage black people; they intended to disparage one specific black person: Kanye West. Is there something wrong with that? Is it not okay to mock a ridiculous celebrity?

Now, the costumes may have been clumsy and ill-advised—the students probably should have realized they were reminiscent of blackface and would provoke outrage. Hosting a "Kanye Western" theme party was not the brightest idea the brothers of SPE have ever had.

That said, does the university really need to "investigate" the incident?

UCLA said it is investigating the party and talking to students.

"While we do not yet have all the facts, the alleged behavior is inconsistent with good judgment as well as our principles of community," UCLA said in a statement. "We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community. Put simply: Just because you can do something, does not mean you should."

As the university begrudgingly acknowledges, UCLA students have every right to host costumed theme parties—even offensive ones—without administrative interference. We don't need an investigation to tell us that college students occasionally make stupid choices.

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  1. “The people with soot on their face, I gather, were dressed up as miners, or “gold diggers,” in reference to the famous Kanye West song.”

    Or maybe they were referencing the line *after* the “gold-diggers” line.

    1. MY GRANDFATHER DIED OF BLACK LUNG SO LET’S NOT MINIMIZE THE OUTRAGEOUSNESS OF WEARING SOOT FACE.

      1. #BlackLungsMatter

          1. STOP MARGINALIZING THE BLACK LUNG!

            1. I thought all lungs are pink.

      2. Fist…if serious, this might mean that we are cousins.

        1. My paternal grandfather was a coal miner. Rural Western Pennsylvania was lousy with black lung back then.

    2. Even if they were wearing blackface and putting on a minstrel show, why would it merit an investigation in the first place?

      1. I’m pretty sure that would violate the university’s code of conduct. The national frat probably wouldn’t be cool with that either.

        1. But UCLA is a public university. Do they have a policy forbidding celebrations? Theatrics? Face paint? Because anything more specific than that is viewpoint discrimination which runs afoul of First Amendment jurisprudence. There is no evidence presented that anyone was so much as harassed, never mind assaulted or otherwise harmed.

          1. Current First Amendment jurisprudence, right or wrong, doesn’t view public university codes of conduct (which often include stuff that is legally protected in general) as illegal. Also, there’s a difference, at least to me, in coming down on the frat versus (for example) expelling the individuals involved. I don’t think a fraternity has a right to be chartered by any university (public or private) and face no rules aside from general law.

            1. What are the rules in question, then?

              1. It depends on the school and can include a lot of things. A lot of schools have restrictions on when fraternities and sororities can recruit, for example, which could be considered restrictions on speech.

                1. A lot of schools have restrictions on when fraternities and sororities can recruit, for example, which could be considered restrictions on speech.

                  That is not even remotely a relevant example to what I’m describing.

                  1. How is it not? Is it not a regulation of speech?

                    1. It’s regulation of conduct without focus on the content. I’m not really sure how this is unclear. The university can ban frat parties; it can’t ban racist frat parties.

            2. Moreover, you are strawmanning what I said a bit. I never said the university’s code of conduct had to be limited to “general law”. In fact, I would say that the university’s code of conduct shouldn’t reflect general law, as that is the job of the police to enforce, not the university per se. They can ban fraternities, or parties, or even armbands, as long as they don’t exercise viewpoint discrimination in doing so.

              1. Well, banning armbands would probably run afoul of Tinker v. Des Moines but that is a different matter.

            3. Current First Amendment jurisprudence, right or wrong, doesn’t view public university codes of conduct (which often include stuff that is legally protected in general) as illegal.

              What? FIRE gets university conduct codes struck down in court all the time.

              1. Jordan,

                I’m not saying the university can regulate or ban everything (if they’re public) I’m saying that the courts still give them more leeway than they do to governments. That’s not even debatable.

                1. That’s not even debatable.

                  Which is probably why nobody but you is debating it. The question isn’t “can the university do things the government can’t do”, the question is “where is the legitimate cause of action for this investigation that isn’t based upon the ideas allegedly expressed during the course of the event?”

          2. UCLA is a Hallowed Institution of Higher Erudition.

            Why should it tolerate people who still have something to learn?

      2. Uh, in this country we have a little thing called due process. You might want to lynch these people outright but I for one think we should gather all the facts and then punish them severely for the damage they’ve done to the public good.

      3. Feelings were hurt. Insensitivity violence.

  2. “Were the students mocking black people, or were they mocking Kanye West?”

    Anyone who was on H&R in the ‘Chimpanzee shooting cartoon’ brouhaha in 2009 knows the Salon answer to that.

      1. If you have to ask for the answer, you already know the answer.

  3. Depends on whether there were people not photographed actually in blackface or similarly offensive outfits. The Kim K and gold digger costumes aren’t offensive.

    I did see one picture of a girl dressed in what looked like a stereotypical black gangster outfit, which doesn’t even make sense with the theme, as Kanye isn’t even remotely a gangsta rapper. I can see why some may take issue with that, but I haven’t seen any photos of actual blackface, and the anger of Kim K and gold digger outfits is just baffling.

    1. *that should say “over Kim K …”

      1. I sure am.

        1. But I’ll never get over Macho Grande.

      1. Well you’re not wrong …

  4. Is it not okay to mock a ridiculous celebrity?

    Ridiculous? That’s racist! You wouldn’t say that about a white celebrity!

    1. Jusin Bieber – just sayin’

  5. We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community.

    I’m beginning to wonder if we’re perhaps not defining down terms like harm or safe.

    1. Emotional harm is real! A commercial for anti-depressants told me so!

      1. You have to wonder, at some point we are going to need a new word for when someone is physically harmed

  6. More importantly, did they serve fish sticks?

    1. With custard.

  7. I’m not saying SJWs are ridiculous figures
    But their outrage-meter is sure on a hair trigger
    Their antics can only make you snigger
    They need a cause like a rowboat needs an outrigger

    1. Stop with the cultural appropriation!!!!!

  8. While I can see why black students were offended, it’s not clear to me that the partygoers were actually wearing blackface. The people with soot on their face, I gather, were dressed up as miners, or “gold diggers,” in reference to the famous Kanye West song.

    Do we know if they were talking with black voice?

    1. Yo dawg, shut yo mouf.

    2. Outstanding reference.

      My wife saw Dennis at court yesterday, and said that he’s really short in person.

      1. That’s not surprising, he does look pretty short in the show. It just helps that he’s next to DeVito and Day all the time.

        I did see Danny DeVito climbing into an Uber a few weeks ago. He’s as short and round as you think.

    3. Blackvoice
      I was expecting this.

      This also would have been acceptable.

  9. #BlackBruinsMatter

    Why do they care about Malcolm Subban?

    1. It’s a weird LA thing. So many people there care about my Bruins.

  10. Given how up in arms people get about stuff like this I’m amazed that Lethal Weapon episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia ever got made.

    1. Because they’re awesome. WKUK are fairly good in this respect as well.

    2. It’s easier to get away with when your characters are completely unredeemed sociopathic assholes (and they are awesome).

    3. The danny devito sex scene is the best thing ever.

      1. Oh, wow, he’s a great actor and all, but…no.

        1. There is a little film you need to watch called The Room. Frank’s love scenes were inspired by that wonderful film, I believe.

          1. I saw The Room, thank you.

            H. P. Lovecraft would think it was too creepy.

  11. While I can see why black students were offended, it’s not clear to me that the partygoers were actually wearing blackface.

    And so what if they were in blackface? Is there some Biblical prohibition of depicting black a person or is that just a Muhammed thing?

    Fuck it, I’m going as Rachael Dolezal for Halloween. Does that really qualify as blackface or can I squeak by on that one?

    1. It’s reverse reverse blackface.

    2. Why would it matter what some stoneage parchment says?

      But you, unintentionally, raise a good point. Is drag, including letting boys dress as Disney princesses for Halloween, gender appropriation?

      1. Why would it matter what some stoneage parchment says?

        It was an allusion to the concept of blasphemy, which is what blackface is in the church social consciousness.

        But you, unintentionally, raise a good point.

        It was quite intentional.

      2. But you, unintentionally, raise a good point. Is drag, including letting boys dress as Disney princesses for Halloween, gender appropriation?

        I (white boy with italian/jew blood) dressed up for our 5th grade wax museum as Colin Powell (this was in the 90s, so it was pre Booooosh 2.0). One of my classmates went as Helen Keller. There were fucktons of appropriation going on that day.

        1. Well, Powell does speak pretty fluent Yiddish…so there’s that.

    3. Go as Winnie Harlow.

    4. I really don’t get the continued outrage at blackface. Yeah, minstrel shows perpetuated offensive stereotypes. But no one believes those particular stereotypes anymore. We should be mocking the silly racial stereotypes of the past, not pretending that they are still a serious problem.

      1. But OPPRESSION!!!!

  12. Kanye dress-up party? I’m showing up dressed as a giant bag of vinegar and water.

    1. HAHAHAHAHA, I GET IT!

  13. I doubt today’s college students are familiar with the term “blackface.”

    1. I think there’s an entire industry devoted to making sure they do.

  14. This is how I know I’m racist:

    I view reason.com on my BlackBerry. The pictures that go along with the articles are very small. When I saw the picture that goes along with this article, I thought “Why did they put a picture of a monkey on a Kanye article?”. Then I zoomed the screen in a saw what it actually is. But I thought about monkeys first.

    1. Not racist. Speciest.

    2. BlackBerry? You work for the government or something?

      1. No, that is why he is racist.

        #BlackBerryLivesMatter

      2. He explained why. “I know I’m racist”

  15. Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016. The day Catholics get their blackface on.

  16. Salon = OMG White People R The Worstest

    It’s true. We’re so lame

    1. Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” isn’t about Trick or Treating with his family; the song is about Snoop’s teen days in Long Beach, which belong to him ? warts and all. De-contextualizing his music and obscuring the history behind it is a form of erasure and, let’s be honest here, a form of racism. Similarly, adopting the mannerisms, dress, and slang of black artists, like the white rappers in popular YouTube parenting raps ? that’s racism as well. It’s little better than contemporary blackface.

      just fuck the hell off already.

      1. Laughing in the faces of people is in my mind the only rational reaction to the SJW offendedness hair-trigger

        They don’t deserve a serious rebuttal.

        Which is what I think the problem is with modern campus culture. Not that they’re crazier than morons of the past. But that they think people have to take them seriously.

        1. We’re having a talk on social censorship on campus next week. I’m still debating setting up a “safe area” with a bunch of children’s toys, coloring books, and sesame street videos.

          1. Brown University has been known to create a “safe space” in the event that a disturbing individual with weird views might be invited to campus. Said room was equipped with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies.”

            This is not, so far as I can tell, a parody of what obnoxious college progressives might look like.

          2. i went to hampshire halloween in 2007/08 or so (HUGE campus halloween party at one of those colleges too liberal for grades or majors in western massachussetts) and they had “safe rooms” with kids toys and shit, but they were for people who were tripping too hard. there were A LOT of psychedelics there. Western mass has some weirdly hippy/liberal tendencies (too close to vermont)

      2. Any idea as to the currently operative definition of racism — Is it “preferring a thing that whites, on average, do more often than blacks”?

        1. Not being in jail is racist

          1. Yes, I think whites do that more often.

    2. “There’s something about the mashup of two very different worlds: rap culture and middle-class white families that make us laugh.”

      Yeah, white middle-class families don’t have anything to do with rap. They all listen to Bach or to country music.

      The market for rap music is made up exclusively of marginalized people of color.

    3. According to Eric Lott, author of “Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class,” blackface is defined as a practice in which white people “caricature blacks for sport and profit.” In all of these videos, white people not only imitate black vernacular (using phrases like “errday,” “hizzle,” “stone cold player,” and “you best get ready,”) but they also borrow mannerisms typically seen in gangsta rap videos.

      my brain has accepted this as parody.

  17. What needs to be investigated is the racism that leads one to believe that anything white people do relative to Blacks that is not supportive is suspect. It takes a truly racist mindset to jump to that conclusion over and over again with the slightest evidence. The school is simply conducting racially motivated and discriminatory investigations target at one specific skin color – Whites. That sounds like clear a violation of civil liberties. The investigators need to be investigated. I smell racists.

  18. The movie “White Chicks” must be a shocking affront to all non-racists. They could have made that movie without the white makeup.

    1. I can’t understand how a movie with such a ridiculous premise could be so funny.

      I mean…so I’ve heard. Of course I boycotted it.

      1. I can’t understand how a movie with such a ridiculous premise could be so funny.

        It grossed over $100 million. I’d love to see a “Black Chicks” movie with two white guys in black face… (Imagines white liberal’s heads exploding planet-wide.)

  19. A colleague of mine got reamed for including a mugshot of a very drunk and disheveled James Brown in a trivia contest after someone complained to the company’s general counsel. Then we all had to have a big meeting where we learned that it’s racist to portray any non-white person in an unfavorable light because institutional racism or something something something. I was too distracted by the weeping black women in the meeting (seriously) to pay attention. For what it’s worth, the general counsel reportedly laughed when he saw the complaint.

    1. Then his face took on a serious look as he contemplated the lawsuits, so he ordered the meeting.

      1. And yet, somehow, my complaint about the gratuitous use of the term “going dutch” has fallen on deaf ears. Where’s MY sensitivity session??!1!!!!/?

        1. I’m into going Dutch, Swedish, German, whatever. It’s just a vagina with a funny accent, what do I care?

        2. “And yet, somehow, my complaint about the gratuitous use of the term “going dutch” has fallen on deaf ears. Where’s MY sensitivity session??!1!!!!/?”

          That’s funny, they thought my joke about the Dutchman putting his finger in the dike was offensive.

    2. I object to the James Brown photo because I want to skip over his controversial lifestyle and focus instead on his music. Much more fun.

      1. Huffington Post = We Object to Characterizations of James Brown Which Suggest He Was Irresponsible or Does Not Know Karate

        ” It is true that on September 24, 1988, Brown walked into his offices at Executive Park, Augusta, with a shotgun in his hand. But the gun was never fired. According to FBI files, it wasn’t loaded and it didn’t even work.

        Why have the filmmakers invented this gunshot? It seems to serve little purpose other than to set up a weak joke….To make a joke out of such a sad day in Brown’s history feels disrespectful.”

        Other facts of the incident that day =

        “as reported in his 2006 New York Times obituary. Rumors of a PCP habit had already surfaced by the time his erratic behavior came to a head in September, when he reportedly stormed into the insurance company next to his office, waving a shotgun and complaining that “strangers were using his bathroom,”…When the police arrived, Brown led them on a high-speed chase through Georgia and South Carolina. He tried to ram police cars with his pickup truck. They shot out two of his tires; he drove on the rims for six miles.”

    3. Reminds me of when I got hauled into the office for allegedly calling a lesbian coworker a “dyke.”

      I explained to the manager that I had referred to her as a “lesbian midget,” and I thought it was simply a statement of fact, being that she’s a proud lesbian and under five feet tall. I could see the boss was stifling laughter as he sent me back to work.

      I wonder if he knew the Dead Milkmen reference. Doubt it.

      1. I used to call my sister the “4 foot 10 lesbian”…

        Made up for all the times she kicked my ass when I was 8 and she was 11.

      2. I used to call my sister the “4 foot 10 lesbian”…

        Made up for all the times she kicked my ass when I was 8 and she was 11.

    4. I feeeel good!

    5. Speaking of James Brown and the Dead Milkmen, here’s their tribute to him beating his wife.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LfghRelcgk

      Some of the lyrics:

      Gonna beat my wife
      Gonna beat my wife now
      Gonna smack her with a lead pipe
      Gonna smack her with a 2 by 4

      Run her over with a Brink’s truck
      Chase her down with a lawn mower
      Gonna beat my wife
      Look out

  20. Now, the costumes may have been clumsy and ill-advised?the students probably should have realized they were reminiscent of blackface and would provoke outrage. Hosting a “Kanye Western” theme party was not the brightest idea the brothers of SPE have ever had.

    Must you put one of these equivocating statements in every article? Instead, why don’t you relate the story of the costumed frat party that you attended in your college years, how some super sensitive types may feel that it is inappropriate, and that they should just fuck off. Instead, you excuse the hypersensitive reaction on the one hand, insisting that you would never do such a thing, while pointing out the absurdity of the reaction in the other.

    Cut your hair and grow a pair, already.

    1. Robby does that to fuck with us. He doesn’t really give a shit.

    2. Exactly! It’s not just Robbie, but every writer here. They always have to make sure that you know they are not a racist, or a conservative, or Republican, or sexist before they tell you how someone overplayed that card. Stop it already. We get it. You are a fine upstanding milktoast individual with no real passion who is incapable of offending anyone, no matter how bad they deserve it.

    3. I think Robby is to social justice warriors, what Rand Paul is to neocons in his latest presidential run. He’s eager to validate their premises in order to bring them over to a watered down version of rationality.

    4. Don’t listen to him, Robby: never cut your hair.

      1. Delilah did it to Samson, look what happened. Keep your cool Rico, don’t let ’em touch da doo.

  21. Well, I guess we will always be able to mock the hipsters, right?

  22. …their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community. Put simply: Just because you can do something, does not mean you should.”

    Bowie knives, shotguns, and irate tigers cause harm and pain. I’m willing to concede actionable libel and slander as well. Per the rhyme, however, name will in fact never hurt you. However, I enthusiastically agree that not all options are good choices. For instance, having a hissy fit because someone did something you find offensive, while possible, is a poor choice.

    Alicia Frison, a black student union member, told The Times that another student notified her and other members about the party after photographing some female partygoers who were wearing gold and had soot on their faces.

    Ok, so if you’re the person who responds when SJWs light the racism bat-signal, my guess is that the female partygoers in question could have just escaped from a burning building and you’d still be offended enough to complain.

  23. Hey, c’mon. We have to protect Kanye. The US not only has the biggest canyon in the world, with Kanye it also has the biggest hole.
    And the biggest tool.
    And the biggest douche.
    He’s a national treasure. As in he should be locked in a vault somewhere.

  24. Well, on the plus side, there’ll soon be a guide to appropriate everything, presented by the office for appropriateness. Cultural appropriation out. Which means white men still get to dress as… white men, and indigenous plants. Huh, maybe not. Looks like plants are a protected class as well. Unfortunately, dressing as white men does reaffirm patriarchal, heteronormative, and whatever-so-forth stuff. Can’t dress as homosexual white men, because that’d be a) heterosplaining homosexuality, and b) appropriation of gay culture — which is a thing when it suits the appropripeople , but isn’t a thing when they say it isn’t. (See black culture.) So white men only get to dress as nothing. However that works. Go, party.

    So one is supposed to acknowledge, to represent and include black culture, in parties and elsewhere in society. But one is not allowed to criticize it, to mock it. That pretty much results in an obligation to express that black culture is super. If you prohibit criticism (mocking), the only practical alternatives are indifference (in practice: segregation), or compelled content-biased positive speech.

    1. The funny thing is that Kanye isn’t even “black culture”. Kanye is the rapper white people (and Kmele) cite when they want to socially signal. I mean notice the pattern in that sea of arms. What percentage of them could accurately translate the phrase “fuck up some commas”? 1%? 0.5%?

      1. I doubt you have the authority to define what’s black culture and what isn’t.

        1. Surely that should be left to experts at Salon

            1. You and Obama together make up 100% authority.

              Or was that racist?

      2. I mean, I had to look it up, but that’s because I’m 37 and a shut-in, with the exception of happy hours. Ask my 17-year-old self and I’d probably have been able to tell you.

      3. Does this have anything to do with the complaint that white people earn money but don’t spend it?

        1. Isn’t that Scotsmen?

  25. i think the only thing sillier than the rage being displayed over black face, is the way it is obviously not not applicable to the situations that raise the outrage. last one i saw was peoples faces being painted for the “blackout” game at the university. now people with soot on their face, that is clearly meant to make them look like miners (or “gold diggers”)

    why can’t there be more cases where what people are outraged about is at least what actually happened?

  26. Related =

    Never Confront Steven Segal In Places Food is Prepared or Served

    (*also = how many times have you seen ‘armpit stabbing’ in film? I will guess never. This is why he is an artist to be celebrated)

    1. Wow, in one scene the bad guy nicked poor Steven in the forehead with a knife, I could even see a few drops of blood!

      Otherwise, I never saw him suffer a moment’s inconvenience at the hands of his opponent.

      Also, while I’m no expert, I would suppose that if you’re trying to shoot someone, you shouldn’t (a) get within punching distance of them or (b) give a lengthy “I’m going to kill you” monologue while in that position.

    2. Supposedly on the set of one of his movies, one of the fight choreographers had enough of his antics and put him in some sort of hold that make him crap in his pants.

  27. It’s racist to think you can mock Kanye without mocking black society.

    It’s racist to assume that Kanye is representative of black society.

    blah blah blah

    I’m surprised a black woman hasn’t killed Kardashian for stealing a rich black man. My white nanny gets all kinds of abuse from black women for having a black child.

    1. “”My white nanny gets all kinds of abuse from black women for having a black child.””

      NEVER FORGIVE

  28. Damn, one more school I will never pay for kid to go to. I’m seriously running out of schools.

  29. To expect the young and the outraged to see this as anything but a return of the KKK is asking too much.

    If self-serving media whores are now representatives black culture, God help us.

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