Parties mocking black stereotypes sparks outrage

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – White students at Tarleton State University in Texas hold a party in which they dress in gang gear and drink malt liquor from paper bags. A white Clemson University student attends a bash in blackface over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. A fraternity at Johns Hopkins University invites partygoers to wear “bling bling” grills, or shiny metal caps on their teeth.

From Connecticut to Colorado, “gangsta” theme parties thrown by whites are drawing the ire of college officials and heated complaints from black and white students who say the antics conjure the worst racial stereotypes.

University officials, the NAACP and others have condemned the parties as insulting and inexcusable under any circumstances. At the same time, some black academics said they were not surprised, given the popularity of rap music among inner-city blacks and well-to-do suburban whites alike.

The white students, they said, were mimicking the kind of outlaw posturing that blacks themselves engage in in rap videos. They suggest the white students ended up crossing the same line that says it is OK for blacks to call each other “nigger,” but not all right for whites to do it.

Whites often don’t realize their actions are offensive because they are imitating behavior celebrated in music and seen on television, said Venise Berry, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Iowa who has researched rap music and popular culture.

“The segment of rap music that is glamorized and popularized by the media is gangsta rap,” said Berry, who is black. “It has become an image that is normalized in our society. That to me explains clearly why they don’t see it as wrong.”

At an off-campus “Bullets and Bubbly” party thrown by University of Connecticut School of Law students in January, pictures showed students wearing baggy jeans, puffy jackets and holding fake machine guns.

The University of Colorado’s Ski and Snowboard Club advertised a “gangsta party” in September, with fliers featuring rappers and fake bullet holes. The theme was dropped after complaints, but some students didn’t get the message.

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