The weekend before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the clueless frat rats at the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Arizona State University decided the best way to celebrate was with a “blackoutformlk” party. Those who attended the all white party wore basketball jerseys, hip hop clothing, some reportedly even wore black face make-up. They also drank alcoholic drinks out of hollowed-out watermelons and flashed gang signs while posing for the camera.
Understandably, local civil rights leaders were outraged and threaten to boycott all ASU athletic events. They want those involved expelled from the university and the fraternity banned from operating on campus. (The fraternity had already lost its house on campus after a fight in 2012 when up to 20 white frat boys brutally beat an African-American member of a rival fraternity.) ASU officials say the matter is “under investigation.”
Obviously, the party says volumes about the fraternity. But it says even more about the members’ families.
After all, people aren’t born racist. Racism is learned behavior. Most of these boys likely come from relatively well-to-do families in Arizona. You know, the only state that refused to celebrate MLK Day; the state that decided to honor King only after it had lost tens of millions of dollars from boycotts; the same state that passed the blatantly racist SB1070 anti-immigrant bill; the state with only one African-American legislator; one of the red states dominated by the Tea Party which has held numerous anti-Obama rallies complete with Confederate flags.
Yes, that state!
One has to wonder exactly what these frat boys learned at home and from watching the public debates over our nation’s first black president. One wonders how many of their parents watched Fox News Channel and listened to Rush Limbaugh with the kids. One wonders how many vicious letters to the editor they have read; how many racist comments they have heard at school and at sporting events; how many news reports and “reality” TV shows they’ve seen that focused on black crimes while ignoring white crimes; how many rap songs they’ve heard that glorify violence.
The leaders of ASU have their work cut out for them. Not only must they find an appropriate way to deal with the fraternity and educate their students. They need to find a way to turn this into a teachable moment for the rest of the state’s population.
UPDATE: The TKE fraternity has been expelled from campus. Futher actions against individuals are under consideration.