The University of California, Irvine has received a lot of media attention since last Wednesday when the self-described “first and largest Asian Greek fraternity,” Lambda Theta Delta released a parody video in which one of the fraternity brothers is wearing blackface.
The video was released with the intention of publicizing the fraternity‘s Spring installs. The video quickly spread like wildfire across campus and was later taken down that same day. The video features four fraternity brothers performing a skit and lip-syncing to Justin Timberlake’s "Suit and Tie," with the brother who portrays Jay-Z wearing blackface.
Students did not respond well to the promotional video. Ainaria Johnson, co-chairwoman of UCI's Black Student Union, told the Daily Pilot, "We’d like to point out that this blackface video isn’t the first, nor is it the last, example of racism that’s been shown on this campus."
The fraternity released a statement on its Facebook page last Wednesday, saying it "sincerely apologize for the extremely racist content of the 'Suit and Tie' video."
"The use of black face in the video is incredibly offensive as well as insensitive," the fraternity continued. "This behavior is simply unacceptable and the individuals responsible for the video have already been reprimanded within the organization prior to the public outcry to which this formal apology is responding."
Thomas Parham, UCI's Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, is investigating the video for any disciplinary actions or sanctions to be taken against the students and the fraternity.
"What we have to investigate is whether it's just individuals or just an organization or whether it's both that are responsible," Parham said.
Since then, other UCI organizations have taken action against Lambda Theta Delta. The Cross Cultural Center, the center devoted towards providing opportunities for the community's various multicultural and diverse communities, including Alyansa ng mga Kababayan and the Asian Pacific Student Association, openly expressed its disapproval.
Further, members of UCI's black community, comprising only about 2.7% of the 27,000-student body, marched into last Wednesday’s Multicultural Greek Council meeting and lined the room, chanting "While there is racism, we will not rest." There, they pointed out various moments of oppression the black community has faced while on campus.
While the video included a disclaimer in the caption saying, “No racism intended,” Patrick Chen, a student government official at UCI, noted that the caption itself "indicates that the makers of the video DID know on SOME cognitive level that what they were doing might be considered racist."
Chen further stated:
"When people post this video in anger, it is not necessarily to focus attention on the frat or the blackface individuals; while they should be punished in some way, they are not important in the larger scheme. [The larger issue] is to focus on a culture that has normalized anti-black behavior, a system of people that has failed on every level and over and over again to prevent things like this from happening. It is to focus on a fundamental lack of understanding of just how serious anti-black racism still is today."
The UCI campus has been very tense as of late as it has been reported that threats are being circulated.
As a minority-race in many of our communities throughout the nation, the normalized anti-black behavior, as seen in this event, speaks to our wider Filipino-American community. As Filipino-Americans fighting for our own justices, it is important to be aware of the other injustices people like our own face today.
To read Chen's full statement and concise details of the entire event, read his post entitled "Anti-Blackness at UC Irvine [possible trigger warning]."