One of the first lessons learned about cultural sensitivity on a campus such as Berkeley’s is that just because you don’t intend for something to be racist, that doesn’t mean it isn’t.
The offensive quinceanera-themed party thrown by the Delta Chi fraternity on the night of Sept. 21 is a perfect example of this confusion. The party, the impetus of a recently introduced ASUC Senate bill, was defended by Delta Chi’s president, Cody Kermanian, as never beginning with “the intention to marginalize.”
As evidenced by his remarks, Kermanian is sadly missing the point.
It’s reassuring to hear that Kermanian and the fraternity did not intend to alienate or insult Hispanic students on campus, but the problem with the party was not that it was conducted with malicious intent; the trouble is with the careless reappropriation of an important Hispanic cultural ritual for the purposes of throwing a party.
The bill, sponsored by CalSERVE Senator Wendy Pacheco, places the party squarely in the context of other offensive events that have occurred in Greek communities on American college campuses. While Delta Chi’s quinceanera party did not reach the levels of UC San Diego’s infamous Compton Cookout or a gang-themed party at Dartmouth College (where partygoers dressed up like Bloods and Crips), it is symptomatic of a troublesome trend in Greek party culture across the country.
There are productive measures outlined in the bill to address this trend. It calls for “intent versus impact” training, and it also asks Delta Chi to issue a public apology for throwing the party. However, the bill also has its flaws.
The bill rightfully recalls the incident last semester in which the Theta Delta Chi fraternity hung a figure that looked similar to a black male out of its window for Halloween — directly across from the African American theme floor in Unit 1.
However, the bill mentions that in spite of an ASUC bill that required “mandatory racial sensitivity” training after the incident, “there have been no updates on the efforts for mandatory racial sensitivity curriculum.”
In order for the Greek system to adequately implement these protocols, the ASUC needs to actively enforce the reforms they demand the Greek system take on. Otherwise, the changes necessary to effect a culture shift will have no incentive to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, cultural reappropriation and racial insensitivity are not exclusively qualities of the Greek system. Co-op parties and student group events are often guilty of the same kind of ignorance.
But Delta Chi’s failure to consider the consequences of its actions or the reasons behind those consequences reflect an unaware attitude that seems particularly prevalent within the Greek community.
Hopefully, after this instance, the necessary changes will be adopted, and the Greek community made more culturally aware.