An open letter to Allen Wu:
As a Black student on this campus, I was upset with the “Hood Ratchet” party planned by University’s chapter of Theta Xi fraternity. After reading your published apology in the Daily in which you said, “I would like to sincerely apologize for any negative emotions that you and any other offended members of the community may have felt” and “I apologize for any hurt that I’ve caused in our community,” the lack of specificity in your statements gave me the impression that you don’t truly understand what you did that was hurtful. I have friends of many races and ethnicities who were offended by the incident, and I also have friends who weren’t. I don’t speak on behalf of any of them. I only want to tell you why it upset, angered and hurt me.
I would not have been bothered by a hip-hop themed party. I might not have even been bothered by some of the language you chose to use in the party description, had it been used in a different context. What upset me was the juxtaposition of those words with images, costumes and a video that almost exclusively featured or described Black people. I do agree that hip-hop as a genre doesn’t have to be Black; in fact, it often isn’t. However, that belief is not one your Facebook event depicted or supported. It may not have explicitly said hip-hop equals Black, but it didn’t have to.
I’m not someone who identifies with being “hood” or “ratchet.” When you parody those aspects of Black culture, I know you aren’t talking about me — but others might not. Events like yours help to reinforce negative stereotypes about people who look like me. They encourage people who don’t know me to fall back on preconceived notions of who I probably am instead of trying to get to know me. They encourage people to say things to me such as, “Can you teach me how to twerk since you know how?” or “You’re so much different than all other Black people,” or even, “Are your friends back home ghetto?” I’ve been asked each of these questions on this campus within the past year.
While you may hear those stereotypes a lot on the radio or see them on TV, I think they’re perpetuated by only a few in my community. Those few people might be popular, vocal and have a platform to do so, but they don’t represent the collective voices of all Black people. It’s not that I expect you or anyone else to represent all aspects of Black culture when you have an event that includes one small element of it, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t perpetuate the stereotypical image of all Black people being thugs and hood rats with “ratchet pussies.”
When you make it easy for someone with undiscerning eyes to think your event is a party about Black people and Black culture in general instead of a party about hip-hop as a musical genre, that’s when it hurts me. When you name an event in conjunction with a website that is notorious for poorly representing Black people instead of a website that is solely related to hip-hop, that’s when it hurts me. When almost all the descriptors to your event come from Black hip-hop and rap songs and adhere to Black-targeted stereotypes, instead of the multicultural “music genre consumed by all races” version of hip-hop you described in your response to Erin Fischer’s viewpoint, that’s when it hurts me.
I believe that although it had to be requested, your published apology was sincere. I understand that you didn’t think about your actions beforehand, and I’m not going to condemn you for something that seems like an honest mistake. I, too, have done and still do things that are hurtful to people because it’s difficult to relate to people whose struggles aren’t my own. When you created the event, you probably didn’t consider the effects that it would have on people like me. Now you do. I hope you act accordingly.
Ryan Moody is an Engineering senior.