In a shocking display of racism and ugly stereotyping last week, members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of California, San Diego hosted a party dubbed the “Compton Cookout.”
Organizers encouraged women attending the event to dress and act like “ghetto chicks” with gold teeth and cheap clothes.
“They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face,” read the event description posted on Facebook. “Ghetto chicks have a very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it by forming new words …”
The event description noted that this event was organized to celebrate and show respect for Black History Month.
Anyone with even an ounce of awareness should have been able to recognize this as an incredibly distasteful manifestation of racism and sexism, regardless of how innocent the organizers claim their intentions were.
Administrators and campus leaders at UCSD were right to condemn the events, and take proactive steps to improve the racial climate at the campus, where only 326 undergraduates identify as African American out of a total of 22,048.
At the same time however, we must recognize that this was an off-campus private party; it was not officially sponsored by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. And as odious as the language in the event description was, it was constitutionally protected speech.
Around 30 state legislators neatly arranged themselves in front of TV cameras on the Capitol steps to denounce the party and demand action from UCSD leaders. It was slightly bewildering to see them make an issue out of something so far removed from the daily business of the legislature.
We can all agree that the party was inappropriate, but was condemning it on TV really more important than addressing the issue of middle-income students being priced out of higher education? Where was the fancy press conference about the conflicts of interest some of the UC Regents have? Where is the outrage over the ever-declining funding for students?
The press conference was designed to make legislators look good. What it really did was perpetuate the image of a legislature that is ignorant of the deeper issues UC is facing.