After learning about the latest atrocities the UC Irvine Greek community committed this past week in the name of philanthropy, it has taken a modicum of restraint to not fill this article’s 500-word limit with “FUCK GREEKS” 250 times over. Journalistic dignity aside, doing so would erase much of the historical context that makes such behavior so abhorrent.
So, to a community that makes far too many excuses for itself, this is my moderate and articulate response to what happened behind your closed doors this week.
Defensive cries of “It’s just a theme,” “We weren’t trying to offend anyone” or “We didn’t know” (my personal favorite; well now you do know, so please stop!) ostensibly belie the ignorance within the Greek community.
I beg to differ. The knowledge that would have proceeded to enlighten said ignorance should have prevented these clockwork incidents. But no, the persistence of these incidents points to something else: an extensive lack of responsibility and accountability within Greek leadership in responding to and curtailing culturally and sexually offensive behavior.
Before I proceed to call out the specific incidents that occurred just this past week, I want to acknowledge my respect for a very few number of Greek individuals and the positive work that they contribute to the UCI community.
With that being said, that number is laughably small and the system that they’ve unfortunately chosen to be a part of is responsible, time and time again, for egregious patterns of racism and sexism.
Let’s start with Sigma Phi Epsilon, shall we? Some struggling “graphic designer” probably thought they were clever to deploy a Native American print for the visual collateral surrounding the event because they saw it in an Urban Outfitters catalog.
Despite UCI’s Hip Hop Congress articulate response to the fraternity’s blatant cultural appropriation (read: robbery), the event unfolded without so much as an apology from the offending party. Photos with racist and sexist location tags such as “chachi nation” or “Snatchee Nation” (depicting Rainier Nanquil, the star of last spring’s blackface debacle, no less), with partygoers donning redface and wearing clothing historically associated to exoticized stereotypes of African peoples, cropped up on Instagram following the event. Oh and let’s not forget that the n-word was also thrown around in the captions.
I must admit, congratulations are in order for the men of SigEp for throwing such a successful event; successful in contributing to a culture that commits violence against Black and Native people while robbing them of their culture. Hey, Macklemore called. He wanted to know how you guys appropriate so well.
Then there are the ladies. Alpha Phi continued to appropriate Latino culture with their Phiesta-themed campus wide event. This time complete with the minion from “Despicable Me 2” that wears the fruit hat! Because isn’t stealing other people’s culture so darn cute?
Forget about the fact that the United States is undergoing an immigration crisis right now and that record numbers of undocumented immigrants (the majority of whom are Latino) are being deported from the only place they call home. All while those who remain provide bodies for the labor that nobody seems to want to acknowledge.
All of which echoes the 1940s “bracero” program during which Mexican laborers were contracted by the US government to meet the wartime labor shortage. One of the many hypocrisies of our great nation, this occurred following the deportation of over half a million Mexicans.
The sombrero, shielding laborers from the harsh sun under which they toiled, came to symbolize the oppression of the bracero program. Thank goodness the sorority didn’t wear sombreros this year. But only after concerned Latino students advised them that wearing a people’s oppression as a costume might not be, you know, cute.
Meanwhile, Kappa Alpha Theta put on their annual KATwalk fashion show, allowing straight, cisgendered men the rare chance to wear dresses for the enjoyment of a predominantly straight, cisgendered audience.
It’s not like transgender women face the constant threat of physical harm for dressing congruently with their gender identity or anything. No, it’s definitely alright to wear somebody’s oppressed, lived experience as a costume. Yep, absolutely nothing wrong with that. Except that it is.
At this point, I have to stop. Research from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has shown that having to deal with racism, and presumably also other forms of identity oppression, has a very real and very negative physiological effect on high resting blood pressures.
Besides, I’ve breached 700 words already. So much for a word limit.
Phuc Pham is a fourth-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at email@example.com