The sport of racist college theme parties

Updated: February 28, 2013

NORTH CAROLINA-(BASN)-Fact is stranger than fiction.

This was made evident during the semi-final hockey game against Fargo Davies in North Dakota on Friday, February 13, when three Grand Forks Red River High School students decided to put on Ku Klux Klan hoods while standing in the crowd.

As crazy as this may sound, the proof of this stupidity was quickly photographed via Shane Schuster and circulated on Twitter.

According to several reports, the KKK inspired hoods,  which the students reportedly wore for approximately 10-20 minutes until they were forced to remove them by other students,were supposed to be a joke, and was done as a part of the high school’s  “white out” celebration,  which is a trend popularized by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, where people in the stands wear white face paint and white clothing.

Unfortunately, this in your face racist espiode came right after students at Duke University, in Durham, NC, stood on the lawn in front of Duke Chapel with signs bearing the message “Race is not a party,” which was part of a protest against anti-Asian prejudice that was “devilishly” displayed by Kappa Sigma, a fraternity, who hosted a “racist rager” that they promoted by using racists flyers and email messages that included stereotyped Asian spelling like “herro” and “peopre” and other offensive stereotypical images of Asians.

The party, in fact was originally called “Kappa Sigma Asia Prime” before a report was filed with university officials.

Despite university officials request for the fraternity’s flyers to be taken down and the theme of the party changed,  photos from the party still showed mostly white students wearing sumo wrestler costumes and chopsticks in their hair, while mocking Asian culture.

Even though the party was highly offensive and currently is being investigated, Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president of student affairs, said  it does not appear that the fraternity violated any specific university policy.

Kappa Sigma, however, isn’t the first fraternity to be accused of celebrating stereotypes at Duke.

In November 2011, the university’s chapter of Pi Kappa Phi drew criticism for throwing a “Pilgrims and Indians” party, in which the invitations encouraged students to find their inner “hot natives” or “Pocahotness” as well as parties with themes such as “Black Entertainment Television vs. Country Music Television.”

“This is not just about Asians, one party or one frat,” Ashley Tsai, a Duke senior told the Chronicle,  the student newspaper. “This is a consistent thing happening. We want serious things to be done by the student body and the university so that this never happens again.”

Tsai was correct with her overall assessment.

Because even current NBA superstar Jeremy Lin, who now plays for the Houston Rockets and was part of “Linsanity” as a New York Knick last year, also faced the same ugly type of racial discrimination and slurs while playing basketball at Harvard University, according to article in Time magazine.

Everywhere he plays, Lin is the target of cruel taunts. “It’s everything you can  imagine,” he says. “Racial slurs, racial jokes, all having to do with being  Asian.” Even at the Ivy League gyms? “I’ve heard it at most of the Ivies if not  all of them,” he says. Lin is reluctant to mention the specific nature of such  insults, but according to Harvard teammate Oliver McNally, another Ivy League  player called him a C word that rhymes with ink during a game last  season.  On Dec. 23, during Harvard’s 86-70 loss to Georgetown in Washington,  McNally says, one spectator yelled “Sweet-and-sour pork!” from the stands.

In the face of such foolishness, Lin doesn’t seem to lose it on the court.  “Honestly, now, I don’t react to it,” he says. “I expect it, I’m used to it, it  is what it is.” Postgame, Lin will release some frustration. “He gets pissed  about it afterwards,” says McNally. “I have to tip my hat to him. I don’t know  how I’d react. The type of dude I am, I might not be as mature as Jeremy.”
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These racially theme parties and incidents, like the one that occurred in North Dakota, seem to be the norm and the new trend on college campuses as a new generation of students find it funny to display their racism in public without shame.


With that said, Lisa Wade, a professor of sociology at Occidental College, began to record and collect evidence of these racially themed parties and events at college campuses.

The photograph below depicts the members of the Chi Omega sorority at Penn State (source).  It was taken during a Mexican fiesta-themed party around Halloween 2012. The signs read: “will mow lawn for weed & beer” and “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”

The Vice President of the college’s Mexican American Student Association, Cesar Sanchez Lopez, wrote:

The Mexican American Student Association is disappointed in the attire chosen by this sorority. It in no way represents our culture. Not only have they chosen to stereotype our culture with serapes and sombreros, but the insinuation about drug usage makes this image more offensive. Our country is plagued by a drug war that has led to the death of an estimated 50,000 people, which is nothing to be joked about.

The president of the sorority sent out an apology.  Penalties are under discussion as of this posting.


In September 2011 students at Hautes Etudes Commerciales, a Montreal business school, were filmed “wearing black makeup [and] chant[ing] with mock Jamaican accents about smoking marijuana” as part of a skit (source). A student explained that it was part of a skit in honor of Jamacian Olympian Usain Bolt.  A spokesperson for the school explained that Francophone Canadians were unaware of the racial history behind blackface.

Anthony Morgan, a law student at McGill University, caught the students on film. He welcomed an apology from the school, is eager to follow up on their own investigation of the incident and, in the meantime, is filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission (source).  He explained:

[Being black] is not a costume that you put on… This is not just about a few bad apples. This is about a greater problem about what we think about, how we value, how we understand, how we discuss — if we discuss — black history, culture and contribution.

Race-themed events at colleges and universities are a yearly ritual.  I include our collection of such parties and “celebrations” below.


Pictures from a “South of the Border” party at Santa Clara University in California.  Indeed, that IS a pregnant woman, cleaning ladies, and a slutty gang member.


A party in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day at Tarleton State University in Texas:


A party in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day at Clemson College in South Carolina:


A party in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day at University of Connecticut School of Law:


A Delta Sigma Phi Halloween party (in 2001) at Auburn University (via):



The Greek letters on the purple shirts reference a black fraternity on campus.


A party at the University of Delaware in 2007 (via Resist Racism):






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Members of the Athletics Union at the London School of Economics painted their faces brown and “dressed up as Guantanamo Bay inmates and drunkenly yelled ‘Oh Allah’…”  At least 12 students were found to have dressed up in costumes that were deemed “racist, religiously insensitive and demeaning.”  Here’s one picture I was able to find:


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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