New Party, Same Ignorance

Jazmmyne Williams

The day of the great battle of the Blues game, emotions were running high. A lot of happiness, and a little bit of stress from upcoming midterms. However, Duke’s reputation for work hard, party harder definitely held true. Wednesday night Shooters was exceptionally packed, and the Duke Basketball players made an appearance. What most people didn’t realize was that something a little more disrespectful made an appearance as well.

Amidst the many watch parties and pre-games, was a party that made quite a stir. Delta Sigma Phi (commonly known as D-Sig), decided to host and throw an incarceration themed party, called Kappa Kops, in which their members held signs of their “charges” along with fake plate holders for “mugshots”. Many sported tank tops, hoodies, and baggy jeans. One person wore a police costume, and others held up money and toy guns. Apparently this party was not a first time occurrence, but the theme shifted slightly this year from their usual police-themed party called Kappa Kappa Cage, partnering with Kappa Kappa Gamma.

The party itself, by Duke’s standards, will most likely be looked at as an exercise of freedom of speech; as an individual who doesn’t believe in stifling people’s voices, I might have been able to accept that. That is, until I decided to connect it to the history of Duke’s micro-aggressive and racist parties.

This incarceration party was hosted by a primarily and historically white fraternity which has been known for being offensive and not inclusive. Throwing a party with a theme like this may seem harmless on the outside, but in actuality, has a significant microaggressive tone.

Incarceration affects black people at a rate of about 40%, despite the fact that they make up only about 13% of the United States’ population, and Hispanic people (term taken from 2010 U.S. census) at a rate of 19%, while they make up 16% of the population. At a surface glance, one could say that since white people have an incarceration rate of 39%, that it could be compared to the rate of Black people. However, white people make up a considerable 64% of the population, making their incarceration rate much lower than their population rate. In addition, mass incarceration is intertwined with the law enforcement system, which originated from slave patrols in the 1800s, and the resulting abuse of this system has come to be known as police brutality, which disproportionately affects non-white populations.

Delta Sigma will probably come up with the excuse that they meant nothing of the party, and that they had no idea of the significance of incarceration, at a time when there is an abundance of news stories about another unarmed black person killed by the police because they believed that “their lives were at danger”. Furthermore, that excuse should be invalid, because with the new inclusion of black students into this historically anti-black establishment they should have taken upon themselves as a chapter to go through the process of learning about things that may affect the way they interact with those students. Although the theme is different, this party does not stand alone from other parties held on Duke’s campus. In 2011, Pi Kappa Phi hosted a “Pilgrims and Indians” Party, and in 2013, Kappa Sigma threw an “Asia Prime” party, where the invitations for the event began with “Herro Nice Duke Peopre”. And, as per usual, no apologies followed.

I don’t ask too much from this university. Nor do I ask for the censure of students, as that stifles the learning process that we are all here to partake in. But we need to understand that your freedom of speech and expression does not mean that you get to walk around Duke in blatant ignorance and have the ability to express it, when you go to an institution filled with many opportunities and resources to learn.

These parties will continue to happen, and Duke will continue to act as if they don’t accept intolerance and hate. But students will graduate, and will go onto to become society’s biggest lawyers, doctors, investment bankers , Supreme Court Justices, maybe even the President of the United States. But in all of these professions, there is a requirement to forgo ignorance and use your skills to come to an understanding, or ask someone to help you understand. Ignorance may be bliss, but racism isn’t always blatant either.

Jazmynne Williams is a sophmore at Duke University.