Justice

UCLA Fraternity In Trouble Over "Kanye Western" Party

On Tuesday night, members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and Alpha Phi sorority at UCLA gathered for a "Kanye Western" themed party, which has stirred controversy for its racial insensitivity. In photos from the event, students can be seen wearing baggy clothes and blackface, sparking outrage across campus.

Shortly after photos from the party appeared on social media, accusations of racism rang out. The "Kanye Western" theme involved dressing up like hip-hop mogul Kanye West and his celebrity wife Kim Kardashian, lending to outfits that drew on racial stereotypes. In some cases, students painted their faces with charcoal.

It's time to end racist party themes once and for all.

Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, October 8, 2015


"I maintain that this was undoubtedly an act of gross negligence and willful ignorance," Aman Williams, a member of UCLA's Afrikan Student Union, told ATTN:. "Hosts of the party must be accountable for the inherently anti-Black nature of party theme itself. At a party where the racial demographic is overwhelmingly white, and attendees are encouraged to take on the identity of a Black man, it goes beyond appropriation."

"In fact, at the point in which some white students placed charcoal on their chest, neck, and face, it became Blackface," Williams continued. "Regardless of intentionality, this party absolutely made a mockery not just of Black culture, but of Black people; it is the experience of Blackness that informs the production and curation of our culture. Our identity is not a costume to be worn for entertainment one night by individuals who do not share the same experiences as we do."

Several members of the university's Afrikan Student Union stood outside of the Sig Ep fraternity house in protest, asking that the party be put to an end, the Daily Bruin reported. On Thursday, the union is holding a meeting at the center of campus to address the incident, using the hashtag #BlackBruinsMatter to raise awareness and rally supporters.

"This is the type of behavior that perpetuates stereotypes against a vulnerable race of people and that I am absolutely not okay with," UCLA student Hanan Worku wrote on Facebook. "Because the bottom line is when you go home, you can wipe off the 'make up' and go back to being White and receiving all of the benefits of a system that permits you to engage in this type of behavior. We can't."

In a statement emailed to ATTN:, the university said that it was "concerned about these allegations and earnestly working to gather information about what occurred, talking to all those involved."

"While we do not yet have all the facts, the alleged behavior is inconsistent with good judgment as well as our principles of community," the university wrote. "We remind students that while they are free to celebrate in ways that draw on popular culture, their specific choices can cause harm and pain to fellow members of their community."

"Put simply: Just because you can do something does not mean you should."

Though the incident at UCLA is the most recent example of racial insensitivity within the American fraternity and sorority system, it is by no means a rare occurrence. Earlier this year, members of the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon came under fire after video was released of members engaging in a racist and apparently ritualistic chant.

ATTN: reached out to the UCLA chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon for comment, but a representative for the student group could not be reached by the time of publication.

Sigma Phi Epsilon's national headquarters released a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

"Building diverse and inclusive communities is core to our identity as an organization, and we have zero tolerance for racist behavior,” a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times. “Sigma Phi Epsilon will continue to work with the university and UCLA community to investigate these claims and hold students accountable for any inappropriate behavior.”