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“You have been charged with representing your brotherhood to Dartmouth as racist and insensitive”

February 25, 2010

(via) This week anonymous signs have appeared on the lawns of Dartmouth’s Psi Upsilon fraternity, Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity, and Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority.

Among the incidents the vigilante group sites are:
* Psi U’s use of the indian symbol on T-shirts made this Winter. The protestors describe the inidian head as a “caricature of racist stereotypes.”

* KDE’s shirts produced in Fall 2009, on which the phrase “Down to 09F” was written. I can not for the life of me figure our what this means, but the issue was large enough that the sorority “initiated structural changes to correct the mistake and prevent it from happening in the future.”

* Chi Gam’s “Come as You Are” Homecoming T-shirts from Fall 2007, which depict a female individual with the caption “Come as You are, because running won’t fix your face.” The protestors said that the shirt “conveys to this campus that [Chi Gam] lack[s] any regard for women on this campus.”(Chi Gam wrote an “apology” about these shirts in ’08, in which they state how sorry they are that some took the shirt the wrong way)

Many of the sign asserts these complaints specifically:

There was also a sign outside the administrative building, asking that they hold student organizations accountable. This sign seems to state the larger mission of this groups: speaking out that:

Racism and sexism persist on this campus in perpetually harmful ways, including offensive paraphernalia, hostile and unsafe social spaces, attachment to outdated and offensive traditions and institutional impunity in the face of individual transgressions.

It’s so important to call out the reality of “hostile and unsafe social spaces” on campus. It’s often hard to articulate exactly why one is made uncomfortable. And even when articulated, dominant groups tend to try to logic out how your emotional response is irrational. It is absolutely a function of power and privilege to diminish individuals feelings of marginalization as “unfounded.” Offensive slogans on T-shirts are a tangible way in which an environment can be made uncomfortable. Often when these slogans are attacked, dominant groups accuse others of “not being able to take a joke.” They may even accuse you of not tackling the “real issues.” (One glaring example is when Renee of Womanist Musings recently called out the facebook group “Reasons when it is acceptable to punch a woman in the face” and a commenter told her that she was too easily offended.)

The reality is that sexist and racist jokes contribute to a sexist and racist culture. They’re not funny, and they perpetuate inequalities, violence and oppression. It is completely rational to feel unsafe and uncomfortable around people who tell these sorts of jokes, and try to hold these individuals and institutions accountable.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. nko permalink
    February 25, 2010 10:47 PM

    “It is absolutely a function of power and privilege to diminish individuals feelings of marginalization as “unfounded.””

    Amen. Aaaaaaamen.

  2. Dartmouth Alum permalink
    February 28, 2010 2:39 PM

    “Down to 09F” is a play off the phrase “down to f…” (I’m sure you can fill in the last word; trying to keep it G-rated) and the “09F” portion in an abbreviation referring to the 2009 Fall term.

    I’m fairly perplexed why the anonymous poster(s) would find this offensive, yet not post a sign outside the Asian Studies House complaining of the offensive nature of the group’s t-shirt fundraiser in which they sold shirts saying “Pho You.” Clearly their t-shirts were attempting to play off the phrase “f… you.” When organizations are selectively targeted for poor use of judgment, the accuser’s actions/emotions appear to be irrational. Hence the reason why “groups tend to try to logic out how your emotional response is irrational.”

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