While America has been in a very public dialogue about race, at UCLA on Tuesday night Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority decided to throw a “Kanye Western” themed party. Alicia Frison, a third year Philosophy major at UCLA, told Revolution News that she heard about the party after a fellow student had seen other female students walking around with stuffing in their butts and wine bottles stuck to them. This led her to the Sigma Phi Epsilon frat house where her fellow classmate saw a white girl wearing a chunky gold chain with her face covered in what appeared to be soot.
The classmate told the white girl that she was wearing a lovely Halloween costume and asked to take a photo. The girl posed and as she snapped the photo, members of Sigma Phi Epsilon saw her taking the picture and started yelling,
“Oh fuck. Twenty-twenty! Twenty-twenty!”
Members of Sigma Phi Epsilon then told the student that she could not take photos on their private property. Meanwhile, over forty Black students had found out about the party and decided to go. However, twenty to thirty minutes after the photo was taken a lot of people left the frat house and the party looked like it was over. Frison witnessed a male student leaving the party in blackface and “when he saw me he crossed the street.” Frison felt that he did so because she is an actual Black person facing someone wearing blackness as a costume.
Still determined, the Black students held space across the street. Frison explained that being Black students they were aware that their very presence could be reacted to harmfully, so the UCLA students kept their distance from the frat. “We never approached the actual house,” said Frison. However, the students did not want the party to continue so they stood their ground.
The police soon came and were “amicable saying the students can demonstrate,” Frison said. Despite the scrutiny that police have been under for racist and often deadly tactics that have been found to disproportionately target Black people, the police officers who came to the scene were very sympathetic and left shortly after. The party pretty much looked over and soon the Black students began to dwindle as well. However, once it looked like the Black students were gone something strange happened: people began to return to the party in groups of two.
Some returning partygoers still wore fake grills, sagging pants, and stuffed butts, while those that had donned literal blackface appeared to be missing from the returning partiers. To be clear: a non-Black person wearing blackness as a costume, with or without black makeup, is ALWAYS blackface.
MY CULTURE IS NOT A COSTUME. pic.twitter.com/85zhW5tLb3
— Altagracia (@gracedagreat) October 8, 2015
Amidst the blackfaced crowd from both Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi, many people seemed wasted. A lot of the men were drunk and throwing things in the street. One partygoer threw a bottle at the house across the street and another Black student said they heard someone say a racial slur. Soon after, Frison found herself face to face with Max who claimed to be the VP of New Membership at Sigma Phi Epsilon. Max told Frison that he was “very sorry” and Frison told him,
Then draft a letter.
At which, Max laughed. Max went on to tell Frison that the frat was “completely in the wrong” and said,
I understand, even though I don’t understand because I’m just a stupid fucking white boy.
Max then explained how uninvolved he was in Sigma Phi Epsilon despite him being the VP of New Membership and the Kanye Western being a “new members party.” Frison knew that if he was the VP of New Membership, Max was very much involved in planning the party and told him,
You didn’t really think about human beings when you created the party.
By now, the police had returned due to a conflict between the frat house and the home the bottle had been thrown at across the street. An officer from the first visit told Max that he would gladly arrest anyone in the party if there was probable cause. Max told the police officer that he could take the partygoers. The police officers (who were from Santa Barabara) remained kind to the black students protesting and even snapped this photo.
The Daily Bruin, a top college publication, did not release a story about the incident until late afternoon yesterday. This was only after numerous requests from students and outrage on Twitter. In the article released, the blackface party was called “charcoal” on students’ faces. Such downplaying might explain the recent release of two editions of The Racist Bruin, a publication which looks exactly like the Daily Bruin but covers social justice issues that are often not featured in the Daily Bruin, such as racism on campus.
Sigma Phi Epsilon through a blackface party and the Daily Bruin isn’t talking about it….. biased!
— Leidy. (@menina_florence) October 7, 2015
UCLA has a deep and violent history when it comes to racism. In 1969, student organizers Bunche Carter and John Huggins from the California chapter of the Black Panthers were shot and killed on campus. In 1985, UCLA’s Beta Theta Pi hosted a racist “Tequilla Sunrise” party that drew protests organized by Chicanx students. In 2012 The Black Bruins, a video calling out low enrollment of black students at UCLA, went viral. Just this spring, racist stickers were found stuck all over UCLA.
Sigma Phi Epsilon and Alpha Phi did not return requests for a comment. Revolution News contacted the Interfraternity Council at UCLA and were told that the Director would be “out all week” and everyone else in the office was “taking a lot of days off.” The images featured by those participating in the “Kanye Western” have already been deleted from users social media accounts. Despite the stonewalling by anyone that should be accountable, the Black students remain determined and will be protesting today at noon at the Bruin Bear. Revolution News will be streaming live from the protest.
If you’re in LA and can make it. We need all the support we can get. pic.twitter.com/vWf3v1Es7l
— Altagracia (@gracedagreat) October 8, 2015
Pentagonista is a QPOC UCLA alum that is in solidarity with the struggle to end racism and all forms of oppression.