College racism and crummy apologies

Another racist “South of the Border” party, this time thrown by members of an honors fraternity at the University of Delaware. Some of the partygoers wear gardening gloves and shirts that read “Spic ‘n Span Gardening.” One poses with a shovel. Others wear tee-shirts with “Mexico” on the front and various sayings on the back: “Hott,” “Spicy,” “Full of Tequila.”

When confronted, what did they have to say for themselves?

I am not a racist!

I also did not understand what this world truly meant and it makes me extremely upset to think that anyone who does or does not know me believes that I am racist. My entire life I have wokred to uphold the idea that all people are equal. My use of malicious language or stereotypes does not reflect my personal views or beliefs and was a complete and utter serious misjudgment. When confronted by acts of racism in the past I have always stood up for openness and acceptance, which is why I am so disappointed in myself today. –Jacqui Croteau

I am not a person who thinks badly of other people. I am a person who is accepting of all groups of people … But the person you see in these photos is not representative of who I am, nor is it the type of person I want to be … Please know that the insulting sentiments portrayed in the pictures are so contrary to how I truly feel about the students on this campus and the minority population. –Lauren Boroski

I do not condone any racist actions, or clothing worn at that party … –Jason Weingarten

I can assure everyone that these allegations against me do not reflect my personal beliefs. –Justin Snow

I am very sorry that these pictures have caused you pain, and that my attire has reflected a racist attitude in your eyes. I can assure you that I have always considered myself an individual who openly accepted others, and I had no intention of causing any damage with this attire. –Nikki Jacobs

So if these shirts don’t represent the personal beliefs of the wearers, what exactly were they doing wearing them? It’s not as if they threw on the shirts because they had nothing else to wear. Three of the shirts appear to have been printed at a tee-shirt shop; the others appear to have been created by their wearers. Is it possible to write the word “spic” and have no conception of its racist meaning? It also looks like the students are wearing brand-new garden gloves and one student is carrying a shiny new shovel, undoubtedly purchased for the occasion.

To me, this signifies some intention, which brings me to the next defense:

I didn’t mean to do it!

In no way were these outfits, or these pictures meant to offend anyone.

I want to make it clear that my actions were not executed with any malicious intent. The use of the phrase was intended to be light-hearted and funny. Never did I wish to degrade the Hispanic community, and at the time, I did not expect that it would be taken so offensively.

My intention behind wearing this shirt was in no way malicious …

… please believe that this shirt was not created with the intention to offend … It was never my intention to do this type of damage.

I did not mean to hurt anyone by this.

You didn’t expect that it would be “taken so offensively”? How exactly did you think it might be taken? And what are these shirts, if not clearly racist? Do we have to say “I hate those damn spics” as we recreate harmful stereotypes? Or is it perhaps even more meaningful that nobody thought twice about perpetrating racism?

The fact that nobody at this party said, “Hey, wait a minute …” indicates the depth of penetration of these racist stereotypes and their acceptance. The idea that these actions were just “light-hearted and funny” [TO WHITE PEOPLE, because some of us never thought of them as funny] is reinforced by the grins of the folks in the pictures. And later the pictures were posted to websites. And nobody involved ever said, “Hey, this is f*cked up.”

This is racism on a pervasive systemic level. Contrary to the statement from the fraternity (“While it certainly is an indecent display of racism, it is an individual matter, not an organizational one”), it isn’t racism on an individual level. Because individuals form a group, and the group all gave tacit approval to this behavior.

The University of Delaware president is quoted in his statement as saying, “Please know that the University of Delaware will evidence that ours must be a diverse and supportive community that provides a safe and hospitable environment for all students, faculty and staff, without regard to racial and ethnic background, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.” Yet officials have reportedly stated that there will be no action taken with regard to the students involved.

So we can call for everyone to decry “insensitive and thoughtless behavior that can cause hurt to others,” but we won’t do anything about it. Because as long as we think about racism as intention-free, thoughtless behavior by individuals who just meant to have a little fun [and the rest of us are HUMORLESS and OVERSENSITIVE], we don’t have to examine a system of white supremacy. We can just make our shitty apologies and “move forward.”

My general rule for apologies: Don’t explain. Don’t excuse. Don’t try to convince others about how wonderful you are. Here’s the general format:

1. Admit you f*cked up.

2. Apologize for f*cking up.

3. Do something to address your actions.

Because all the nice words in the world just don’t cut it.

Pictures of event Video University Statement

Vox’s list is getting longer and longer.

4 thoughts on “College racism and crummy apologies

  1. Pingback: » Racist Theme Parties: Freedom of speech or freedom to hate? - By ¡Para Justicia y Libertad!

  2. Growing up all I knew about the phrase “spick and span” was that it was a cleaning product/figure of speech meaning “neat and clean”.

    South of the Border parties? God, what kind of absolutely bullsh*t will college students keep coming up with…well, kids/morons of any age, really.

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