The student government of the University of California-Davis apologized to members of campus who were offended by a sumo wrestling activity that was available during a recent outdoor social event. But a mere apology isn't good enough for students who say the sumo suit appropriated Japanese culture.
One of the offended is now insisting on mandatory cultural competency training.
Another student wrote that he felt fat-shamed by the incident and that he is entitled to "reparations payments," though I it seems he's actually just trolling. Still, the difficulty one has distinguishing sincere leftist outrage from satire is telling.
What's inarguable is that the Associated Students of UC-Davis really did host a block party last month. It included a variety of events, including a "sumo suit" attraction—students could put on giant inflated fat suits and wrestle each for fun. But as we know by now, the words "fun" and "college students" don't belong in the same sentence, unless accompanied by the words "culturally sensitive."
At least one student complained to ASUCD about the activity, which prompted a formal apology:
We’d like to apologize for any harm the “Sumo Suit" may have caused you all. This lapse in judgment is completely ASUCD's fault and responsibility alone.
We are thankful to the student who courageously brought this issue to our attention. We appreciated their honesty and that they took the time to include the history of the Japanese sumo wrestlers (rikishi) and that this activity could be seen as a racially insensitive to Japanese culture.
This was an egregious oversight and it will hopefully not happen in the future.
Yes, the student-government believes it was "courageous" to report the sumo suit as a microaggression.
The California Aggie's story sheds additional light on what was so disturbing about the sumo suit. Cultural studies PhD student Scott Tsuchitani told a reporter that the incident was an example of "white supremacist anti-Asian structural racism." He continued:
It is pitiful that the ASUCD would pathologize the so-called victims as in need of treatment instead of reflecting more deeply on what is needed to address ASUCD’s own failure in this situation. From my limited perspective, I would suggest that the foremost need for treatment might well be for cultural competency training for ASUCD itself. That is much more relevant here than any Orientalist history of sumo wrestling."
In other words, a cultural studies student and instructor thinks the answer is mandatory instruction in cultural sensitivity. How novel.
Tsuchitani thinks these things—inflatable fat suits—represent anti-Asian white supremacy in action. I would say that they represent some harmless fun. No one is being deliberately demeaned, and Asian students probably have bigger racial hurdles to overcome than this. One such actual hurdle: universities explicitly discriminate against Asian applicants for admission. I wonder what Tsuchitani has to say about that.
Another student, Phil Jones, wrote on Facebook that "as a Heavy-American" he felt fat-shamed by the body suits. The Aggie reported his comments as sincere, but I'm quite convinced he was just having a bit of fun at ASUCD's expense. In any case, he certainly managed to fool ASUCD. One member of the organization responded to Jones' demand for "reparations payments" by offering to let him give a presentation to the student government on hate speech.
To recap, one student said sumo suits amount to "white supremacist anti-Asian structural racism." Another said, "I don't appreciate the blatant Fat-Shaming involved with caricaturing one of the few sports traditionally enjoyed by Heavy individuals." The former is sincere; the latter, I suspect, isn't. (I contacted Jones and the The Aggie's reporter for clarification: neither responded). But the fact that it's so hard to distinguish actual social justice activism from parody tells you everything you need to know about the current health of liberalism on campus.
Updated at 3:30 p.m.: Jones confirmed via email that he was trolling. "I find such political correctness to be a danger to free speech and academic expression and was planning on making a deeply ironic, 1984-inspired presentation to the staff before they cancelled on me," he wrote.
Photo Credit: Joe Weller