UCLA, What’s Goooood?!

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Illustration by Kelsey Hill.
Illustration by Kelsey Hill.

IMG_3210 copywebIt’s 2015, and as much as it bothers some people that discriminated groups keep talking about race relations, it bothers me, as a member of the black community, even more that we continue to revisit and be victims of ignorance. It’s 2015, and yet a vast majority of white people, backed by the mainstream media, cannot understand why the act of blackface — the action of putting black or brown makeup on one’s face to appear “black” and act in a stereotypical way — is a violent crime.

Violence — a word usually used to describe an act of bodily harm or the threatening of one’s life. But why is violence never thought of as affecting the way black people feel in terms of safety or respect especially on a college campus, even if it is just a “costume” or “joke” to white people? Not one that had just started with the movie “Dear White People” and not one, unfortunately, that will end with this column.

On Oct. 6 UCLA’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority threw a “Kanye Western” themed party where attendees wore baggy clothes, heavy chains and some were in blackface. The Kanye Western party is not simply an issue about students wearing blackface, but a racist mockery of black culture altogether. Even wearing jeans that sag is enough in the way of culturally appropriating a fashion that black males in particular will be targeted and killed for. White people listening to rappers like Kanye West is not the problem, but it seems the more some white people get comfortable with saying the N-word and having dreads, the more they think it gets them a pass into the culture.

I know what’re you’re thinking, and no, it’s not about first addressing the issues that we have in our own communities. Like slave history will tell you, instances of blackface before the 1830’s have made the black man and woman look at themselves as a problematic and ugly race.

Not being an individual from the Afrikan diaspora, you can’t know how it feels to have a self-hate so deeply rooted that it controls the way you see yourself and your people.

The black community calling the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority out for their act of violence is not an invitation for others to say “Hey, black people! You have your own issues you need to figure out!” How can one who has never been black in America possibly think they have the right to tell black people how and why they should “fix” themselves up?

Here’s the thing: white people have the privilege to dress up for one night and “act black,” listen to rap music, wear jeans that sag and exchange Ebonics with each other, but there are black people who are threatened just trying to live their lives in the same way daily. Jordan Davis was murdered by a white man on Nov. 12, 2012 over loud rap music. John Crawford was murdered by a white cop for holding a BB gun in Walmart on Aug. 5, 2014. Those are just two of the thousands of black lives that have been taken by this country in just the last five years.

So, with Halloween approaching, please check your problematic friends. It is not okay to appropriate any ethnic community for the sake of a “cool costume” or for likes on social media. Check your privilege.