“Racist party” organizers attempt to revive event despite condemnation from community

Now-cancelled party immediately prompted criticism from the University, AMS, and students alike

Journal File Photo

Last November, photos of a party at Queen’s garnered national media attention for its display of offensive cultural costumes, earning itself the label “racist party.” Last week, the organizers attempted to restore a similar party for another year.

The revived event emerged amidst a campaign launched Monday by the AMS Social Issues Commission titled “Appreciation, not Appropriation.” The week-long campaign sparked dialogue on campus about cultural appropriation in anticipation of upcoming Halloween festivities.

In a Facebook event that’s now been deleted, the organizers began the party description with, “Yes, it’s back.”

“We’ve had some serious reservations about running it again this year,” the organizers wrote. “[B]ut as those of you who attended in the past will agree, ‘racist party’ was a major distortion of what has always been a spectacularly fun event, and it would be a shame to cancel it completely because of what we feel is an unfair representation.”

The organizers referenced the critics of last year’s party, labeling some as “self-righteous keyboard warriors […] who love nothing more than publicly shaming drunk kids.”

The description warned participants, “Queen’s and the student governments have their eyes open for parties with potentially offensive costumes” and as such, asked them to “be very careful of what you decide on as your team’s theme and costume.”

Though the event was made private and viewable by invitation only, many concerned students circulated and shared a screenshot of the description via Facebook. Once the event was brought to the attention of Principal Daniel Woolf and AMS President Jennifer Li, they both published statements online condemning the planned event.

In his statement titled “Cultural Appropriations Have Lasting Harm,” Woolf wrote “numerous students who feel upset, scared and unsafe” had already contacted him with their distress about the party.

“It is clear from the language used by the organizers that they have failed to appreciate the lasting harm and the negative impacts this specific event had on others – particularly on racialized members of our community,” Woolf wrote.

“Clearly, some students fail to appreciate that our society has changed and progressed; people expect better of students, and rightly are less tolerant of insulting and hurtful behaviours towards others,” he continued.

Woolf also said Queen’s “strives to be a diverse and inclusive community,” and any event that “degrades, mocks or marginalizes a group or groups of people […] is completely unacceptable.”

Li expressed similar sentiments in her statement, drawing on her personal experience of seeing her Chinese heritage being degraded through a monk costume at the 2016 party.

“With an increased focus on addressing issues of systemic racism at Queen’s, I was hopeful that the Queen’s community could confront the culture of racism that enables events like this and make our campus more inclusive,” Li wrote. “However, the recurrence of this event and the language used by this year’s organizers is extremely disappointing to me, not only as President of the AMS, but as a racialized student of colour at Queen’s.”

“While strides have been made since last year’s incidents, the resurfacing of this event undermines the significance of that ongoing work and the many people, particularly racialized students, who have placed themselves at the forefront of this movement,” Li continued.

Li concluded her statement by asking students to challenge this kind of behaviour and to engage in constructive conversation surrounding cultural appropriation.

“I, for one, am not okay with what this event says about our values as a community and I hope that you aren’t okay with it either,” she wrote.

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