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cultural appropriation   [Clear]    (Found 1)

Fraternity Blog

Posted On: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 10:00 AM, by Lindsay Sell
There appears to be a never-ending string of stories in the media detailing the inappropriate party themes used by fraternities and sororities at campuses across the country. These inappropriate themes often ask members to dress and act in ways stereotypically connected to particular identities. Take, for example, the Duke fraternity that hosted an "Asia Prime" party known as the "racist rager," or another Duke fraternity who, a few years prior, hosted a "Pilgrims and Indians" party. Or consider the Penn State sorority that hosted a Mexican-themed party. In each of these examples, members and their guests dressed in stereotypical attire and posed in offensive pictures that were subsequently shared with the media. In each of these instances, public outrage followed.

The reality is that fraternities and sororities often host themed social events. Themes for these events add a novel element and can be a fun way to connect with one another and our guests. When those themes marginalize entire groups of people, even people whose identities might be represented in the chapter hosting the event, we run afoul of our organizational values and create a negative and unsafe environment for entire groups of people.

The public apologies offered by chapters hosting these inappropriate parties often indicate that the organization's intention wasn't to offend, that they were just trying to have fun. These apologies often come after the media has secured photos from these events or seen public invitations via forums like Facebook, leading one to wonder how many events with inappropriate themes are hosted that don't receive attention and are left unaddressed. The processing of these events presents an opportunity to understand the difference between intent and impact.

The impact of our actions can be and often are very different from our intentions, and both are important to consider in our decision-making. Understanding the impact our behaviors have on others, despite our good intentions, helps us be more empathetic and adjust our behaviors to be more inclusive and thoughtful. When determining a party theme, it might be wise to consider what the impact of that theme might be on members of our organizations, our campus communities, and the larger community we're all part of, instead of acknowledging only our own good intentions and offering that as rationale to proceed.

As members of Kappa Alpha Theta, we agree to live by a common set of values. Those values call for us to exercise our widest influence for good. When we think about our intentions and our impact, we are better able to understand the way our individual and organizational decisions impact others and are then able to ensure those decisions do good and not harm. I hope we can all be thoughtful of this when hosting events and as we hold our peers accountable for their events. I hope our decisions to not host social events with inappropriate themes are motivated by our authentic understanding of the impact of that theme and less by our fear of getting caught. And more than anything, I hope that we can ensure all our actions as members of this organization, including those related to our social events, are reflective of our values and commitment to the widest influence for good because they consider both our intentions and our impact.

Lindsay Sell, Beta Gamma/Colorado State, is the extension committee chairman for Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity, and is a charter Life Loyal member.