The Joke Wasn't Funny at FSU Law Students' Party

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

TALLAHASSEE -- So it seems that some law school students at Florida State University had this party recently. But the theme turned out to be a bit over the top.

Too much over the top for some.

The students called their gathering the "Pimps and Ho's Party." It was held at a local bar near the FSU campus, and some white students showed up dressed as pimps and prostitutes, in Afro wigs, gold chains and other outfits straight out of the 1970s -- an era when black criminality and pathology were elevated to the silver screen.

Not everyone was amused.

During a town meeting at FSU's College of Law last week packed with students, teachers and alumni, black law students said they were offended by the theme of the party, and by the fact that the partiers seemed to associate pimping and prostitution with being a wholly black enterprise. White law students, on the other hand, said that the black students were overreacting; that it was all in fun and designed to lampoon the 1970s, not to insult any racial group.

Still, such events are almost never intended to offend. But they seem to be happening way too often in places of higher learning for students to not have a clue about their potential to do so.

Just a few months ago at another college, some white fraternity boys celebrated Halloween by wearing blackface and simulating a lynching, while others blackened their faces, wore Afro wigs and pretended to be members of a black fraternity.

You would think that law students would be more enlightened. Would think that they would understand that while imitating black pimps might provoke laughs in a movie theater, it resonates as racist to African-American law students who know that many blacks turn to hustling as a result of being denied other legitimate ways of making a living, or being pessimistic about their chances of success in the real world. Would think that they would understand that their fellow black law students are there to counterract that kind of image, not to see it celebrated.

But they didn't understand. …