Ethnic Studies Faculty and Student Response to UCSD Campus Crisis Precipitated by the Event Dubbed the “Compton Cookout”
The UCSD Dept. of Ethnic Studies welcomes all thoughtful, informed and reasoned comments to its departmental statements. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of all faculty and graduate students in the department, the Regents of the University of California, or the University of California, San Diego. Please post your comments on its blog HERE.
As faculty and graduate students in the Ethnic Studies Department at UC-San Diego, we unequivocally condemn the February 15th off-campus party, dubbed the “Compton Cookout,” as an example of racist, classist and misogynist stereotyping that degrades Black people through disparaging representations of so-called “African American culture.” Like similar events thrown on college and university campuses across the United States, this “theme party” in one quick, broad stroke reduced the complex lived experience of a heterogeneous racialized community to a caricatured depiction of cultural deviancy. All the more troubling, this particular themed party was intentionally organized to mock ongoing celebrations of African American History month in the U.S. and specifically here at UC San Diego.
This “monstrosity” (as some of the organizers called it) has a violent and racist history that began with blackface minstrel shows in the U.S., starting in the early 19th century, heightening with popularity during the Abolition Movement, and extending into 20th century theater and film. Both blackface minstrel performances and parties such as the “Compton Cookout” reinforce and magnify existing material and discursive structures of Black oppression, while denying Black people any sense of humanity, negating not only the actual lives that exist behind these caricatured performances but the structural conditions that shape Black life in the US. Far from celebrating Black history, events such as this one are marked celebrations of the play of power characteristic of whiteness in general and white minstrelsy in particular: the ability to move in and move out of a racially produced space at will; the capacity to embody a presumed deviance without actually ever becoming or being it; the privilege to revel in this raced and gendered alterity without ever having to question or encounter the systemic and epistemic violence that produces hierarchies of difference in the first place. Moreover, like their blackface minstrel predecessors, the organizers and attendees of the “Compton Cookout” demonstrate the inextricability of performances of white mastery over Black bodies from structures of patriarchy: by instructing their women ‘guests’ on how to dress (“wear cheap clothes”), behave (“start fights and drama”), and speak (“have a very limited vocabulary”), these young men not only paint a degrading and dehumanizing picture of African American women as so-called “ghetto chicks,” but offer a recipe for the objectification of all women—made permissible, once again, through the appropriation of blackness.
Click HERE to read the rest of the statement.