Enter the joyous rites of passage for college students everywhere: the annual ritual where undergraduates hold "ghetto" parties in blackface/dress up like "Mexicans" for "crossing the border parties"/or more generally act like racially myopic asses. Of course, no "offense" is ever intended. And of course, any folk who complain are being "overly sensitive." Over the years, I have witnessed events such as these as a college student (and activist), administrator, and instructor. Interestingly, the repeated note in the controversy surrounding these tasteless episodes is denial--"we didn't know any better! we didn't know that dressing up in blackface was offensive. I/We/Me/Us have black/brown/yellow/red friends. We can't possibly be racists."
Because intention is THE qualifier for racism, none of these good wholesome American "kids" ever mean any harm. My thought: how did the bar get set so low? When should intentionality enter into the equation for personal responsibility and culpability in these cases? My second thought: how can other people's kids get this most generous benefit of the doubt? Where the best of their intentions is always the default rule for assigning responsibility for any error or shortcoming in behavior or decision-making?
Ultimately, episodes where racial terrorism becomes somehow made into harmless humor and satire speaks to a deep myopia and willful ignorance about this country's history. Ironically, the purveyors of this tasteless claptrap are reconfigured as the real "victims," victims of "political correctness," "overly sensitive minorities and liberals," and reverse racism.
And of course these good white college kids wouldn't dare make allusions such as the following:
"In addition to the cross lighting, The Hoya drove the idea home by hanging dark, human-shaped piñatas from Dahlgren’s trees, representing the demons of the past. Georgetown President John J. DeGioia was on hand to witness the ceremony, and his young son was allowed to take a bat to the piñatas, which eventually gave way to a stream of crimson confetti and candy."
Nah. Good, white, college kids would never joke about the murder, debasement, and evisceration of many thousands of black people (and sometimes Jews, as well as Catholics) as they hung like strange fruit from many a tree, in the center of fairgrounds, or off of public monuments. Good white college kids would never print a newspaper article where domestic terrorism was made light of as the stuff of good fun and sport. Moreover, these same good, white, college kids would have the good sense to not make light of the whiteness of terror evoked by the robes of the KKK as the harmless "ghosts of Christmas past."
It would never happen, especially in the Age of Obama. Most importantly, the KKK and Jim Crow was sooooo long ago they doesn't really matter anymore--except to those crazy liberals and racial ambulance chasers who care about such things.
Critiquing the sense of entitlement necessary to find joy in another group's suffering (and to ask these students to reflect upon how racial violence against people of color has also damaged the White Soul) is simply to high a standard to hold. Thus, to call the editors and staff of The Georgetown Heckler to the carpet is both self-righteous and unfair to these good white kids who really meant not harm. Right?
DAHLGREN QUAD—After a challenging year during which Georgetown’s main newspaper saw a last-minute revocation of its independence from the University and extended fallout over its annual April Fool’s issue, The Hoya came together this Friday for its annual cross lighting.
Since the 1930s, the Christmas cross has stood next to Georgetown’s official Christmas tree and is meant to be a reminder of the religious importance of the holiday that the newspaper felt was already slipping from the cultural consciousness during the Roosevelt administration. The Hoya still uses the original green and red light-bulb-studded metal frame of the cross from the first cross lighting, but its wood body has had to be replaced every year since 1941 because faulty electrical wiring causes the wood to catch fire.
“I think we needed this tradition more than ever,” said Campus News Editor Marshall McKinley (SFS ’11). “Seeing our crappy little cross struggle to light up and then spark and catch on fire was the first time in a while we’ve been able to laugh.”
The event began Friday with the staff’s traditional procession under the dark of night from the Leavey Center, with everyone wearing the traditional costume of a flowing white robe, white hood, and white mask, portraying the “ghosts of Christmas past.”
“It’s a time to remember our great tradition, but it’s also a time to remember some of the darkness that hangs over our past,” Hoya Features Editor Emma Richards (COL ’12) said. “It feels cathartic to put on this white hood. It’s about us coming together as one and exterminating these dark figures of the past that seem to loom over us.”
Added Richards,” We’ve been slaving over this ceremony for weeks and it’s great to see it running so smoothly.”
In addition to the cross lighting, The Hoya drove the idea home by hanging dark, human-shaped piñatas from Dahlgren’s trees, representing the demons of the past.
Georgetown President John J. DeGioia was on hand to witness the ceremony, and his young son was allowed to take a bat to the piñatas, which eventually gave way to a stream of crimson confetti and candy.
One of the hooded figures, apparently new Editor-in-Chief Paul Buckley (COL ’11), gave a short speech to the crowd. “From now on we go forward free of the black marks on our past,” he said. “We stand here united in these pure white robes and realize we are now pure and whi—upright, standing on our feet as a newspaper once again.”
In one final act of symbolic ceremony, Buckley took off his robe and rubbed his face and arms in shoe polish. “I is the stupid dark demon that be hauntin’ you!” he yelled in a strange voice. “Be smart and independent and pure, young Hoya staffers!” He was clubbed to the ground with plastic bats.
Finally the huge burning cross was extinguished with a fire hose, but first the hose somehow malfunctioned and shot water at members of the Black Student Alliance who were walking back from a meeting, knocking them over and causing injuries.