This past Wednesday, the Duke Student Government and Asian Students Association co-hosted a rally (“Race Is Not a Party: Rally for an Inclusive Duke”) where over 500 students of all ethnicities gathered to protest over a racist Asian-themed fraternity party at a Duke fraternity over this Kappa Sigma past weekend. I first heard about the incident from a friend who sent me this Gawker article the other night since he knew I went to Duke:
Members of the Asian Students Association at Duke are incensed over a fraternity’s decision to throw a themed party replete with offensive Asian stereotypes, including conical hats and geisha outfits. “Herro Nice Duke Peopre!!” read the opening line in the email inviting Dukies to “the return of Kappa Sigma Asia Prime. … According to The Duke Chronicle, the off-campus party was later renamed “International Relations” after a report was filed with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. But the Asian Students Association says the “racist rager” went on as planned despite the name change, and it has the Facebook photos to prove it.”
Flyers protesting an Asian-themed party hosted by Kappa Sigma fraternity
I went to Duke for business school for my MBA, and we were pretty self-contained in our own building away from main campus. I’d say the only time I interacted with undergrads at Duke was in Cameroon Indoor Stadium to watch the Duke men’s basketball team play (Go Blue Devils!). I can’t say that Duke in general is a racially charged campus. In fact, the Research Triangle Park region (the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area) is the most liberal part of North Carolina due in part because there are major universities in the area and North Carolina overall is a battleground “purple” state, going for Obama in 2008 and for Romney in 2012.
But I can’t exactly say I am surprised by this incident. The most notable Duke party incident in recent years was when in 2006, some white Duke lacrosse team members throwing a party were falsely accused of raping two African American female strippers they had hired – which garnered national headlines and 60 Minutes. From my research, this isn’t exactly the only racially-themed frat party to occur at Duke.
Living in the South, I found the people I interacted with to be alarmingly friendly – a little bit too much so from a Northeasterner. Of course, the South has the historical issues around race specific to slavery, but like I said, I certainly didn’t experience anything. Maybe there is something about Duke’s undergraduate campus culture – or maybe specifically fraternity culture - that has lead to a slew of such events. Events like these should not be tolerated and I’m glad to see and read that Asians Americans at Duke speaking out and being vocal and the student population overall is trying to do something about it. Personally, I never saw or felt any discrimination during my time at Duke.
Image courtesy: Duke University Asian Students Association Facebook Page