The Duke of Racism

Durham, North Carolina is home to one of the most prestigious schools in the United States: Duke University. Known for many of the programs offered there such as Duke’s medical, law, business, and public affairs programs — and even basketball! Sadly, none of these programs are the reason for the respected school’s publicity in the media lately. On February 1, 2013 the students of the Kappa Sigma fraternity hosted a party that encouraged Asian stereotypes, calling it the “Kappa Sigma Asia Prime” party. While the flier for the festivities was written using language like “herro”, or “peopre”, attendees of the party were pushed to wear costumes portraying stereotypical Asian clothing such as a sugegasa (conical hat) or a geisha costume. Despite around five hundred of the University’s students showing up to protest and share their disapproval for the ill-themed night, the party was not cancelled but instead renamed “International Relations: A Celebration of All Cultures and the Diversity of Duke” party while retaining all of the offensive gestures originally planned. After the tactless social gathering, the fraternity was suspended for the insensitive party while further action is anticipated – and demanded.
It is a sad day in the United States when one of our most distinguished schools associates itself with such a low level of thoughtlessness. Not only was this party callous, but it reinforces numerous stereotypes that many people today accept as fact. These yellow face logics, while accepted, do nothing but harm and set back the opinion of a racial ethnicity as a whole – whether people realize it or not. The actions of those students who attended this gathering did nothing but prove that society today is ruled by the cultivation analysis theory, where dressing up in yellow face (explicit) is not considered to be prejudice, but fun! It is very disheartening to know that events like this are taking place in a college – a place where the future leaders of the world go to learn or enhance their skills! It is surprising to learn that this is not an isolated action; last November the Duke women’s lacrosse team hosted a similarly themed Halloween party (Goldman) where those in attendance were dressed up in black face. These actions do nothing to erase the feeling of being a forever foreigner, despite all of the achievements one might attain. Is this the type of ambivalent nature we, as Americans, want to be known for worldwide?


Goldman, Russell. “Duke Students Protest ‘Racist Rager’ Frat Party.” ABC News (2013). Web. 8 Feb. 2013.


One thought on “The Duke of Racism

  1. Very good analysis, Michael–you’re exactly right in relating this to the broader “yellowface logics.” It does illustrate how the stereotypes and controlling images are perpetuated and reproduced. I would have thought Duke would suggest additional education for the students.

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