Kaitlin Montgomery, Technician Editor-in-Chief; Chris Hart-Williams, Nubian Message Editor-in-Chief; Rachel Smith, Technician Assistant News Editor; Brenden Parsons, Technician Staff Writer
One week after NC State Diversity Education Week a party was thrown at The Retreat At Raleigh Thursday night, where students donned racist costumes depicting stereotypes of black culture.
Friday afternoon an Instagram photo surfaced from the party showing two students. One was dressed in blue jeans and a tucked in plaid button down. The other had a blue bandana covering half his face, a wrinkled white t-shirt, a backwards baseball cap, dark wash jeans and his hand prominently displaying the 13 hand sign used by the Crips gang.
The photo was posted by Austin Grooms, the student in the plaid button down, a freshman currently undeclared and a resident of The Retreat. The male in the blue bandana is Joe Englese, who is not listed within the NC State directory. The photo’s caption read “CMT v BET.” Comments on the photo ranged from, “You literally look like a country singer” to “What a good theme” and “Boiz gettin dirty.”
Country Music Television vs. Black Entertainment Television, commonly known as “CMT vs. BET” is a well known college party theme. Partygoers dress up much like Grooms and Englese did in an effort to parody popular country and black culture.
The theme received national attention in April 2014 when a fraternity and sorority at McDaniel College in Maryland were placed on “deferred suspension” after being accused of throwing a “CMT vs. BET” -themed house party.
The Baltimore Sun reported that McDaniel spokesperson Cheryl Knauer said it “promoted negative stereotypes and was insensitive and offensive.”
The Baltimore Sun wrote that, “as part of the deferred suspension, the two organizations will host mandatory educational programs with a focus on sensitivity and diversity awareness.”
At this time, the Technician has not been able to confirm the hosts of the party which had students affiliated with Theta Chi in attendance, such as Grooms and Englese.
“CMT v BET” -themed parties are not unusual at NC State. Just last year one was hosted by Delta Gamma as a mixer with a fraternity.
According to the NC State Fraternity and Sorority Life website, Theta Chi fraternity had its recognition revoked by the university in April 2015 due to multiple drug violations. The organization is currently eligible to return in June 2019. The university will work with national organization to re-establish the chapter.
When reached for comment Friday afternoon Grooms initially denied attending the party Thursday night. When asked of the photo on Instagram Grooms recanted then confirmed his attendance saying, “we dressed up like music awards shows.”
When asked who the other person in the photo was Grooms said, “I don’t really remember …” However, Grooms tagged Joe Englese in the Instagram photo on Facebook.
Several other former Theta Chi members were reached out to for comment who either did not respond or gave no comment.
John Miller IV, first year graduate student studying higher education administration and former African American Cultural Center’s AYA ambassador’s president, said he was baffled by the picture.
“I am struggling with the perception of CMT vs. BET,” Miller said. “I am struggling with the portrayal of something that is very presentable and something that is still very tolerable and then when you speak on BET, that is not BET that is the gangster culture. You’re representing thugs so you’re saying BET is how all Black people dress.”
Jasmine Cannon, a senior majoring in women and gender studies and vice-chair of the Afrikan American Student Advisory Council, said she’s shocked that people just don’t seem to get the problem.
“They are still not getting it even though there are a lot of diversity efforts on campus every single day — the students that need it are still not getting it,” Cannon said.
Jamaal Andrew Harrison, a second-year graduate student studying higher education administration, said that the picture showcased a deeper issue than just people appropriating another race’s culture.
“After hearing about the situation I was very galvanized by some of the images that I saw to have something themed ‘CMT vs. BET,’ that already pitfalls and pits African Americans vs. White Americans,” Jamaal said. “Once again perpetuating the different races. Not only is this move perpetuating stereotypes, but given the history, the recent history and the history of NC State, are you doing this for the shock factor? Because you know that there is a good number of African American students that are enrolled here … are you doing this because you want to get that talk going or are you doing this because you are sincerely not informed about the historical tension between African Americans and White Americans and if so I do think this becomes an institutional issue?”
Miller said that regardless of what was or wasn’t meant by the costumes, the picture hurts him personally.
“I take this as a personal disrespect,” Miller said. “For someone to say that they are dressing as a person who is represented on Black Entertainment Television then I would truly like them to come and have a conversation with me. Face to face. Explain to me how this represents somebody who is on Black Entertainment Television or what that means to be on Black Entertainment Television.”
Grooms has removed the photo from Instagram, however the photo is still posted on Facebook.
Justine Hollingshead, assistant to the vice chancellor and the dean for academic and student affairs, said her office is trying to get more information so it can handle the situation from a university standpoint.
Stephanie Tate | Correspondent
Ever since I made the decision to come to NC State, I’ve feared that this day would come. While many of my friends packed their suitcases and headed over to North Carolina A&T State University or Winston Salem State University, both historically black universities, I packed mine and drove to the school I called home.
Upon arrival I was immersed in a sea of melanin through the African American Symposium through the office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Meeting so many students of color gave me a sense of security in a place where very few people looked like me. That sense of security and that homelike feeling was shattered on the day that you slammed the door of the atrium into my body and snickered while calling me a monkey. I must admit I went through a series of stages after your actions. I went through the initial shock. Not including some disgustingly racist comments on Yik-Yak last year, and some small microaggressions like “You’re very intelligent for a black girl,” I had not personally experienced racism on campus, so of course your actions stunned me. I then went through a stage of confusion. I thought to myself “How could someone be at an institution of higher education, yet be so ignorant? How could someone attend a university that prides itself on diversity, yet still be so overtly prejudiced?” Lastly, I found myself flooded with anger. Admittedly, for fear of perpetuating the angry black woman stereotype, I kept my anger inside and instead rushed to my meeting. Who was I to be angry in the first place? Actually I’m the dedicated honors and AP student, the too many extra-curricular activities student, the service oriented student that worked their butt off to get here. You see this is what women like me have been doing for centuries, bending and shape-shifting for men like you. But this letter is my refusal to do so any longer, and my affirmation that my anger derived from being referred to as a monkey is justified. I do not want you to confuse this as a letter rooted in hatred but rather this letter is rooted in hope, newfound awareness, and appreciation.
First of all, I want to thank you for reminding me of what my being here stands for, what the mere presence of many African Americans on this campus stands for. It was only fifty-nine years ago that NCSU had its very first African American undergraduate students enroll. So let’s put this into perspective, a university that is 128 years old, just started had its first African American students enroll fifty nine years ago. Fifty nine years later, as an African American woman on this campus I have not only the privilege but the honor to walk on the same campus as those students. Like many other African American students on this campus I have a duty to uphold the values of scholarship and excellence like those who came before me. So thank you, for reminding me that I am not here just for myself.
I’m not sure if this is the Donald Trump effect of or what, but I had almost forgotten that overt racism was a thing. I had fallen into a daze and forgotten that people like you, people that harbor hate in their hearts and find comic relief in publically putting others down, exist. Your reminder was a rude but necessary awakening. A reminder that I have a duty as a human being to lift others up. To be a lighthouse of encouragement, smiles, and helpfulness in a world that can get dark.
Lastly, I would like to thank you for a reminder of the amazing resources and people that inhabit this campus. When I left our awful, but thought provoking encounter I walked straight into Witherspoon Student Center, the only building on this campus named after an African American. That same building houses the African American Cultural Center on campus. The center, equipped with a library, a gallery, and some of the warmest and inspiring faculty on campus, might be a good place for you to check out. I’m almost positive that Toni Thorpe, affectionately known as Momma Thorpe, can give you a hug that will squeeze some of those ill thoughts out of you. The books in the library will tell you of a people that were royalty, helped build and shape the world, and have since continued to illustrate brilliance. Thanks for reminding me why outlets such as the Nubian Message, Multicultural Student Affairs, and various other offices and student groups exist. The sense of community I have felt both prior to and after our encounter is the exact reason I remain an advocate for programs like Symposium, Diversity Education Week, and more.
With that being said, I hope that at this wonderfully prestigious institution you embark on a journey of discovery. I hope that you step outside of your comfort zone and get to know someone who looks like me or looks different from both you and I. I hope that your time here opens you up to new experiences and beliefs. I hope that one day you realize how powerful words can be. But until then, thank you for the reminder of where I came from, feel free to watch me as I keep going, as I continue to keep achieving, all while being unapologetically black.
No One’s Monkey
Threa Almontaser | Correspondent
Actress and television personality Raven Symoné, best known for her hit Disney television series “That’s So Raven,” comments drew criticism nation-wide last week when she discussed a study about how Americans make racist assumptions based on people’s’ names.
On “The View” where Symoné is currently a co-host she said, “I am very discriminatory…I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea, it’s just not going to happen, I’m not going to hire you.”
“Raven was in a position to advocate against it, but she voiced her hypocritical opinion instead,” said Aubrey Lewis, a junior studying French. “I definitely think…that people are wrongly discriminated against by something as simple as their name.”
Lewis’s stepmom is part Colombian. She grew up with the last name Gutierrez before marrying her dad and gaining the last name Lewis. Aubrey’s mom faced a lot more harsh judgment against her working as a nurse with Gutierrez for a last name. Aubrey said her mother still remembers being in her early 20s and not having recognition in her career, only getting chosen for the smaller jobs, no matter how much skill she possessed.
Economist Marianna Bertrand from the University of Chicago conducted a study in 2003 where her team sent out thousands of resumes to employers, specifically choosing African-American based names like “Jamal” on some and common white names like “Brendan” on others. Results proved that, “The same résumé was roughly 50 percent more likely to result in a callback for an interview if it had a ‘white’ name.” Even though the résumé’s mailed out were basically identical, the conclusions were different because of the main manipulated factor of names.
“It’s pretty obvious people are discriminated against with their names,” said Wyatt Bond, a senior studying MSL.“Even the most common names face it. Longer names are just more obvious and exposed to the discrimination.”
Bond views Symoné’s words as both economic and racial discrimination, “like upper-class black people would say they wouldn’t hire a Watermelondra either, so it’s a class and economic thing as well,” he said.
Nikita Chintalapudi, a junior studying Biology and English said though she doesn’t feel she faces as much negative stereotyping as people with African-American sounding names, but she’s experienced discrimination because of her name. She’s heard “wow that sucks, you should shorten it,” or people trying to use some crude bastardization of her name as a ‘joke’.
“People tend to hear my name, especially my last name, and make jokes about call centers or arranged marriages. While maybe not discriminatory, it’s degrading and annoying,” said Chintalapudi. “Plus, to me, what’s really upsetting about the whole controversy is that Symoné felt the need to play into the white bias against ethnic sounding names. Especially when she herself has likely had to face that same discrimination. It’s like, where’s your solidarity girl.”
To answer Shakespeare’s question, “What’s in a name?” There’s a lot. Names can determine more aspects in your life than just grade school nicknames or when you’ll be called during attendance.
QuiAnne’ Holmes | Staff Writer
Last week, NC State hosted its annual Diversity Education Week. The week serves to promote awareness and understanding diverse cultures of the nation and world’s and to foster intercultural understanding through a collection of engaging programs.
The Black Students Board, BSB of the Union Activities Board hosted an event called More Than Melanin on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at in the Witherspoon Student Cinema.
“More than Melanin was intended to teach people about how their identities play into the way that they are treated in society and work together to form a complex human being with complex experiences,” said BSB Chairperson Tsharre Sanders, a senior majoring in psychology with minors in Africana Studies and Spanish.
Each attendee received a playing card with different numbers during an activity called Face Value. They were instructed to walk around with a playing card on their forehead and treat one another according to the value of the other student’s card. The cards said to avoid eye contact with those who had two to five, smile at those who had seven to 10, and acknowledge with smiles and conversation to those of a suit higher than 10.
“We aimed to make sure that it was interactive, enjoyable and informational at the same time,” Sanders said.
Some volunteered their answers about what they experienced and the common realization was that often times we treat people that we think are of higher value with more respect than those who we rank lower.
The event created an environment where students could think about identity in depth and openly. Students conversed with one another about what they noticed, how they felt and how that translates into real life.
Dr. C. Ellen Washington, assistant director of the Women’s Center, described the world by painting a picture of “hope and possibility,” she used examples such as having the first African-American President to serve in office along with having women running in both parties of the upcoming election. However, she said just because there has been progress, problems still exist.
Washington presented the acronym, A.D.D.R.E.S.S.I.N.G (age, disabilities, desirability, religion, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, intimate relationship, nationality, and gender) Intersectionality. Each word is one particular identity in which she gave specific examples to illustrate what it may look like in everyday life.
“You do not have to change your beliefs but you need to treat each person as a human. Don’t let your perceptions let someone else suffer,” said Washington.She even used herself as an example to show how people assume that just because she is a tall athletic looking African-American female that she has to play a sport.
Washington said everyday misconceptions can be attributed to the term intersectionality and said that it allows people to understand how the perception of belonging to a group can lead to unfair treatment. She challenged the audience by asking, “Why is this inappropriate?” Biases formed against a person based off of assumptions can be linked to identities that we may or may not identify with.