As the Texan reported on Monday, the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity has gotten in hot water regarding a party it held last Saturday that included racially insensitive themes and costumes. Ostensibly, the party had a "western" theme, but countless guests claimed that it was actually "Border Patrol"-themed. Photographs were taken of guests dressed in stereotypical Mexican garb, or as border patrol agents. Sombreros, ponchos and other such items of clothing could be seen at the event. The fraternity contends that these were unaffiliated guests who adulterated the sincere theme of the event.
That is within the realm of possibility, but the fraternity still constructed and erected a few decorations that could be construed as offensive. A cardboard cutout allowed for guests to pose as a stereotypical Mexican couple and a makeshift “tequila bar” was presented. The Texan also reported that the bar sported a painting of the Mexican flag. All this suggests that the party, in fact, was not western-themed but possibly "Border Patrol" centric.
We do not think that parties noting or even lightly lampooning other cultures are inherently racist or indefensible. But there is a clear line between satire and punching down against a marginalized minority by using trite stereotypes and prejudices, a line that we believe Texas Fiji crossed.
As for those defending the fraternity’s free speech rights, there is an important distinction to make. Greek organizations agree to a certain set of principles in exchange for being condoned and sanctioned by the University. A party with racist themes and values is not illegal — for a student or anyone else — but it certainly breaks that covenant.