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“Compton Cookout” Party at UCSD Ignites Racial Firestorm

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem, originally published at Race Relations on About.com

The University of California at San Diego is still feeling the aftermath of an off-campus party organized by students dubbed the “Compton Cookout” in which racial stereotypes of blacks were used in flyers and a Facebook invitation. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the invitation included references to ‘dat Purple Drank,’ an apparent mix of ‘sugar, water, and the color purple, chicken, coolade, and of course Watermelon.’ Party organizers aimed to have a “ghetto” theme Feb. 15 poking fun of Compton, a community near Los Angeles made famous by rappers and films about urban blacks.

When word spread around campus about the party, black students were outraged, as were administrators who worry that prospective students of color may decide not to apply to UCSD because of the incident. Presently, fewer than 2% of UCSD students are black.

“I’m most touched by the fact that students who personally felt stereotyped are hurting,” UCSD Vice Chancellor Penny Rue told NBC San Diego.

Imagine how you would feel if you were an African American student who rose from the ranks of a place such as Compton, only to have white classmates stereotype you as being “ghetto.” And ghetto in these situations always means tacky, boorish, classless, ignorant and laughable, not to mention a drain on the system or the single parent of multiple children from multiple mates. The Los Angeles Times posted verbatim what women attending the party were told to wear and how to act. I’m choosing not to re-post the hatred it contained on the Race Relations site.

In short, those who planned the party took the worst stereotypes of African Americans and threw them in the face of black students who embody exactly the opposite. Making it into an institution such as UCSD requires intelligence, talent and hard work, but “ghetto” parties are more interested in showcasing blacks who fit stereotypes such as gold chain-wearing pimp or welfare queen. It’s unfortunate that no one had the foresight to see how planning such a party would be a slap in the face to the small number of African American students at UCSD. Being part of a community is a huge part of college life. It’s hard to feel like you belong when you’re a minority, however, and even harder when you discover that students from the majority culture view you in terms of racist caricatures.

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