Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ald. Joe Moore's Ghetto, Watermelon and Black History Month

Years ago, while still in college, the future Chicago Alderman Joe Moore (49th) hung with a crowd that some might call racist. The nearly-all white group of students apparently thought it was funny to mock ghetto life. (Click on images to enlarge) I bring this up now because a recent fraternity party at the University of California, San Diego is causing some controversy. The fraternity is accused of racism for allegedly mocking Black History Month. The Associated Press sums it up: Administrators at the University of California, San Diego are investigating a ghetto-themed party organized by fraternity students to mock Black History Month, and will determine if the students involved should be disciplined in the next few weeks....A party invitation posted on Facebook told students to wear large T-shirts, rapper-style urban clothing by makers such as FUBU, and gold chains, according to a copy posted on the Web site for San Diego TV station 10News. Women were urged to go as "ghetto chicks." The post said such items as watermelon and cheap beer would be served. Look, I am not a racist. I don't like racists. I admit that I do like watermelon, however, and if I can get beer at a good price I'll take it. I've actually served cheap beer and watermelon at my own parties in the past, and I recall fried chicken too, but none of that was served with the intention of mocking anybody. Believe it or not, many non-Black people like those things too. But what were Joe Moore and his college chums thinking when they created "Joe's Ghetto?" Moore graduated with a B.A. from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois in 1980. These photos are from the yearbook that year, when Moore was a senior. How do you interpret "The Ghetto?" Well, how do you interpret serving watermelon at a party? Why was the only black guy in the photo here placed in the center of the group? To highlight the fact that there was one black dude in the room? Or to keep him surrounded? Is it pandering to put the guy in the middle? Does Joe Moore owe us an explanation for what looks like a history of racism and disrespect?