Airband is one of THE most exciting Greek events of the year at some schools. It’s usually a competition between Greek organizations, where each group dances in costume, using props and elaborate sets. My sorority spent thousands on Airband each year. We had two-a-day practices from the moment we had our theme approved, and the artists built absolutely masterful sets. We spent every spare minute focusing on Airband until the big day, and it was magnificent.
Year after year, the performances were incredible. Even the guys would blow the audience away from time to time. My sorority literally lit up the stage one one year with electric light-up costumes (#humblebrag). It was truly spectacular to see what a group of 18- to 22-year-olds could do when they really wanted to. And after hundreds of man-hours, we really did pull off something spectacular year after year.
Sigma Kappa at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was lucky enough to land the ever-coveted theme “Disney Dancing with the Princesses.” I haven’t seen the performance, but from my understanding, there was a Pocahontas segment.
And the world fucking stopped.
Wouldn’t you know it, the Native American Student Organization (NASO) filed a complaint. The story is the same as it always is. The garb and face paint is offensive. This is an opportunity to educate the ignorant, culturally insensitive white kids. Justice must be served.
I generally defend the party throwers in “racist” ragers, but in most cases, I can see why the offended groups make their opposing points. Not all Mexicans have mustaches. Black face is horribly offensive, as it exists as a reminder of the years and years of oppression and mistreatment of black people in this country. Not every Asian likes sushi, and not every French person wears a beret. These over-generalizations, while usually in good fun, are inaccurate.
This, though? This is just people grasping at straws. The girls were not dressed up as “Native Americans.” They didn’t think up these stereotypes in their heads or base their costumes upon over-generalized and untrue caricatures. They weren’t trying to offend. They were dressed up as the characters from “Pocahontas.” Their costumes were directly modeled after the minidress that Pocahontas wore in the Disney film. This wasn’t a race thing. This wasn’t mocking a culture. This was a movie.
To make matters worse, NASO knows that this wasn’t really something to get their panties bunched up about.
Although we have every reason to believe that the sorority intended no offense, we consider this a teachable moment for them and for our entire campus community to deepen our sensitivity on issues of race and culture, and to ensure that we maintain a welcoming campus environment for all people.
“We’re not really offended, but we want people to suffer anyway.”
Now picture this. Imagine the backlash the girls would have gotten had they neglected to use a minority princess in their Airband skit altogether. No Jasmine? No Pocahontas? No Mulan? No Tiana? Racist. Oh, you included Pocahontas but you didn’t complete a history lesson, or create real buffalo leather dresses, or incorporate the exact war paint of her tribe? Racist. I have an inkling of a suspicion, though, that had the costumes been completely historically and culturally accurate, they still would have been racist.
People are grasping at straws here. Inclusion of a race is racist, and we sure as hell know that exclusion of a race is racist. There is no way to win. People need to quit picking on fraternities and sororities. They need to stop looking for reasons to get offended.
Sigma Kappa, of course, issued an apology, as was expected–demanded–of them.
Recently, the Theta Mu Chapter of Sigma Kappa Sorority participated in a Disney-themed Greek Week dance competition at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte portraying the movie “Pocahontas,” including the use of clothing and makeup to further their theme. While the chapter intended to represent the movie, its representation of Native American people was inappropriate.
Sigma Kappa Sorority and its Theta Mu Chapter deeply regret offending the Native American community by this action. Theta Mu Chapter appreciates the offer of assistance from Alpha Pi Omega Sorority Inc., the oldest and largest Native American Greek letter organization, to provide education to the larger UNCC Greek community on this issue and looks forward to partnering with them in fall 2014.
They did the right thing. They didn’t mean to offend anyone, and the best thing for them to do was apologize for doing so. But I just can’t help but believe that the longer people behave in such an overly sensitive manner, the longer it actually prolongs racism. Feeling the need to walk on eggshells on matters that wouldn’t ordinarily cause you to blink an eye just because they deal with a black person, a Native American, an Irishman, a Catholic, a Jew, a Latino, a woman, or an Asian? That’s a form of racism all on its own.