[UPDATED with Chancellor Response and Investigation:] UC Irvine Asian-American Fraternity Members Produce Blackface Music Video
Read the response from UCI's chancellor at the end of this post.
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 25, 6 A.M.: Another day, another frat bro in blackface. Lambda Theta Delta (LTD), the largest and oldest Asian American fraternity at UC Irvine, is under fire after members produced a music video inspired by the Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z collaboration, "Suit and Tie." In the video, four young men dressed in suits and white shades are seen dancing and lip-synching to the hit single. One of them plays Jay-Z. In blackface. Really.
The video was created as promotion for the fraternity's annual "installs" event, which celebrates the entrance of new brothers. It was posted on YouTube with the disclaimer: "No racism intended. All fun and laughter." But many students didn't laugh. Instead, controversy and outrage ensued.
Removed from its original channel, the video was reposted by YouTube user Shamee L, who writes, "This kind of racist anti-black action is deeply disturbing, and people need to know to understand just how prevalent racism still is in our society. ... LTD claims to 'foster cultural awareness.' If they were truly culturally aware, they would not have created such a culturally insensitive video."
Shamee L also posted LTD's Fall 2012 rush video, which shows a costume party where one fraternity member is in blackface and another is wearing a poncho and sombrero. Screen grabs here and after the jump.
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LTD has apologized for the blackface video, calling it "extremely racist" and "incredibly offensive." The fraternity stated that the individuals responsible for the video have been reprimanded and that the video "does not represent the views of the collective house."
UCI's Asian Pacific Student Association has also condemned the video, calling the use of blackface "blatantly ignorant."
"Though this Asian American fraternity claims to be a constituent of the Asian Pacific Student Association at UC Irvine, they are not," a Facebook post by the organization reads. "Furthermore, their actions do not represent our organization and our actual constituency."
Members of the school's Black Student Union believe the fraternity members' actions highlight an anti-black campus climate, and point to a 2011 incident where a UCI dining hall served fried chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Yesterday, they did a teach-in blasting LTD and mentioning other anti-black incidents on campus:
The full Lambda Theta Delta apology:
First and foremost, Lambda Theta Delta sincerely apologizes 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. 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. We want to ensure everyone that this video does not represent the views of the collective house. With that being said it does acknowledge the fact that we have some ignorant individuals within our organization, whom we have already dealt with ourselves.
The video itself was not a fraternity directed project but rather a video made individuals within the organization. We assure you that the video was neither pre-approved by the leadership nor the house. The house was not aware of its production until it was released into the realm of public media. Namely it was first published onto Facebook by these individuals and was immediately removed when other members, NOT IGNORANT of the history and oppressive nature of the use of blackface, learned of it. We did not realize that it was still in existence and believed it to be a grave mistake of a few members who were reprimanded for their actions. The collective house is aware of the great ignorance of the video as it perpetuates a gravely offensive stereotype against African- Americans. Rest assured that the individuals have already been punished for their actions and it is an issue we have already addressed within the house. We apologize for its creation as well as any mental anguish the production has caused to the community. We did not realize it was still in circulation as the house intended its complete deletion for its extremely insensitive content.
Regardless of the circumstances, the video proves the existence of racism and ignorance today. Lambda Theta Delta in no way promotes these values nor perpetuates them. The ignorance and bigotry of the content is intolerable. We extend our deepest and most sincere apologies to the community for the extremely insensitive transgression.
UPDATE, APRIL 26, 3:53 P.M.:
UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake has released a response to the video parody, stating that the university is taking steps to identify the individuals involved and provide comfort and support to those who were offended. He announced that an investigation is underway, and "appropriate action" will follow.
Read his response and watch the video below.
You may have seen or heard about a video parody produced by members of a local fraternity chapter, which has been the focus of media attention today. I was shocked and dismayed by its offensive and bewildering insensitivity. Whether this represents a profound ignorance of history or a complete disregard for the feelings of others is not the point; in either case this behavior is reprehensible and precisely contrary to the values that we live by and the principles that guide us.
UC Irvine does not condone or support this behavior in any way; the video was produced independently. The fraternity has since issued an apology to fellow students; nevertheless, responsible parties will be held accountable for their actions.
I directed our Student Affairs team to launch an investigation, which has already included meetings with student groups and fraternity members, to determine next steps. I expect a report within days. Appropriate action will follow shortly.
This video, and the symbolism that it represents, is not what we stand for. Our values underscore respect and empathy. We are committed to diversity. Our academics and student programming reflect these ideals. We will use this regrettable incident to redouble campus education efforts about the toxic effects of insensitivity, and will continue to work toward building a truly inclusive community.
Chancellor Michael V. Drake, M.D.
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