Many of you have reached out to me to gauge my temperature on the recent “MLK Black Party” hosted by the Tau Kappa Epsilon (“TKE”) fraternity. My reaction is quite simple: I have none. I am not hurt, bothered, offended, belittled, nor disturbed by the photos, the caricatures, the overwhelming publicity, or the idea that some white kids in Tempe, Arizona think tennis shoes, grills, & jerseys represent the Black community. Why am I not offended? For the same reason Richard Sherman screaming into a microphone on national TV does not bother me: it doesn’t represent me. I won’t allow, in fact refuse, to allow it to represent me, my brand, or my family. Let’s talk a little bit.
I find it incredibly disappointing that we feel we must employ our local Black leaders to speak out on this issue. Jarrett Maupin, a man I’ve known since high school, felt the need to speak out on this issue to the local media, even going as far as to call for the expulsion of those who attended the party. Said, Mr. Maupin, “TKE has a problem with African-American students…They have a problem with black people as a race, and there’s no room for that in what [ASU President Michael] Crow has called ‘The New American University.'” Mr. Maupin further added that if he didn’t receive a meeting with Dr. Crow, he would call for a boycott of the Sun Devil athletic program & its efforts to generate donations to remodel the football stadium.
This is wrong for two reasons: first, by Mr. Maupin speaking out, there’s a sense of ownership on behalf of the Black community of the kind of “culture” on display at the TKE event, & second, the call for these young men & women to be expelled from school is not only violative of their speech rights, but counterproductive to the type of full-bodied, productive dialogue Dr. King would’ve encouraged. Was this party in poor-taste? Absolutely. However, punishing protected, but non-mainstream speech only serves to push the folks who share those views away from the discussion table. To Mr. Maupin, & those who support his agenda, I would politely remind them that those same speech & assembly protections they readily obstruct allowed Dr. King to promote his message of equality through peaceful protest. To stand on the shoulders of a giant such as Dr. King, & to use the tools he used for anything other than constructive dialogue is an insult to his cause, to our cause. To those supporters of Mr. Maupin & his ilk, I warn you to tread carefully.
The way to promote cultural sensitivity is through dialogue, not condemnation. More importantly, there must be an intra-Black community dialogue about the Black Americans who profit from this type of depiction of us as a people. It hard not to think of Black folks as watermelon-loving caricatures when that’s largely how we portray ourselves. We have got to start talking to one another about how we talk, act, & dress. We’ve got to raise the bar, our standards & our expectations. Entitlement, the lack of strong male leadership, & the deterioration of the two-parent home have left Black communities across this country in shambles. Calling for the expulsion of some kids having a frat-house party won’t fix that, & in fact only further serves the purpose reinforcing the victimhood mentality that is so pervasive in the Black community. Instead of being victims, let’s be proactive & attack these problems at the root & have discussions on socially acceptable behavior within our Black communities. We have to stop holding those outside of our Black community to higher standards than we expect of ourselves. These discussions must take place first at home, from parent to child, & that is something we have to address as a Black community.
I write to my community, the community of all races, in the sprit of love, unity, & greater understanding. We must all understand & accept the collectivist narrative that we are in this together. We will fail & succeed together. We must strive to achieve greater understanding together. However, before we can achieve any of these idealistic goals, we must first be accountable as individuals; there must be self-reflection & we have to ask ourselves are we apart of the problem or the solution? When leadership speaks out to silence those disagreeable viewpoints the conversation is prematurely blunted & the argument is circular, only to surface again in few weeks time. As Dr. King eloquently stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” Let’s stand together as a community & have that discussion so that we can shed light on the race issue in America that has been trapped in the darkness for so long.
I love you all, & there’s nothing you can do about it.