Trying to Make Sense of the “Compton Cookout”   1 comment

It would be of little use to read this if you have not yet read the “Compton Cookout” Facebook invitation and Chancellor Fox’s condemnation email.

Begin by saying that the Facebook event description was racially insensitive and ignorantly executed with a boorish sense of humor, bathed in insensitivity and insecurity. I support the condemnation by Fox and Rue, will sign a petition, wear a button, make it clear the event deserves no approval.

I’m also a Political Science major, and this is a First Amendment nut’s dream come true. I don’t approve of this event, you don’t approve of this event, the administration and students orgs don’t approve of this event. Something most all of us can unify in opposition against. But we have to understand the law, Constitutional rights, the protections the event has, and take it from there.

The intuitive reaction to reading the Facebook event description is an emotional response of anger and incredulity. What the fuck are these morons thinking?! There is nothing wrong with this initial reaction, but careful, tunneling, panoramic thought should and will follow. Yes, these idiotic frat losers have acted stupidly. Yes, it has incited hostility and rage for deeply historic and cultural reasons. This can be and is expressed more organically and eloquently than by a torrential outburst of profanity or the feebly written and unfunny event description that started all this.

The UCSD administration, Fox, Rue, whoever Jeff Gattas is, have all done a good job crafting thoughtful responses to condemn the event. Frankly, the administration has no business intruding into the private homes of students, and risk exposing themselves to criticism by even addressing the event. No student wants Chancellor Fox telling his or her off campus apartment what type of party theme they can or cannot have. That would be a clear violation of rights- Fox understands this completely and seems to have strategically ducked any discussion on free speech.

Certain Dimensions of Culture (DOC)-related incidents from recent years and a serpentine free speech policy have the administration ducking for cover here. They don’t want a piece of the First Amendment, and they need to stay completely out of this- it is a student affair. This is not the elementary school playground where you go grab the teacher to hand out detentions to anyone who hurts your feelings. The black students and their many supporters can and will handle this on their own. They will do it without the condescending interference of the administration that is apathetic or incompetent to raising the percentage of African American students above 2. 2%? That’s a grade of milk, not a legitimate representation of minority undergrads.

A crucially important aspect to consider is the protections that the Constitution offers for free speech. The “Compton Cookout” event was perfectly legal and any sanction by university or state against it would be easily defeated by any simple lawyer. As I mentioned, Chancellor Fox made sure the free speech aspect was not a part of the conversation she was going to have about this subject, and she’s already in enough trouble with the First Amendment as it is. Free speech is the best and most ironclad argument the “Compton Cookout” people have. Mocking a culture is legal. Creating caricatures, spitting on hateful misrepresentations of fashion and language, and desecrating Black History Month are legally protected.

Another important issue is privacy, which isn’t quite a Constitutional right, but it is recognized by the Supreme Court. The party took place off-campus on private property within the privacy of students’ homes. There is no legal means of invading any of those homes and controlling the behavior that takes place inside them. The protection that keeps the administration out of your apartment while you and your underage friends drink is the same protection that prevents administrative action from being taken against the “Compton Cookout”.

The administration concedes that the off-campus location precludes university discipline, but they are careful to make it sound as though off-campus apartments are merely outside the University’s jurisdiction. Acknowledging the “Compton Cookout”s right to privacy might make it sound like the administration was looking to invade that very thing.

So far, we’ve established that the “Compton Cookout” has free speech protections, right to privacy protections, and that the University administration is powerless to do anything about it (in every conceivable way). These are all good things to be celebrated- rights are awesome. The “Compton Cookout” needs to be condemned by the students with the administration only acting as a sidekick- this is a student issue.

The administration looks foolish and incompetent by, after acknowledging it was an off campus party not sponsored by any campus organization, declaring it violated campus values. Chancellor Fox is not the moral compass of what occurs inside students’ homes. Her sending that email to 29,000 undergrads makes it sound like she is trying to be, or that she is merely posturing for the approval of her peers. It is the approval of our peers that is important.

The legal protections of the “Compton Cookout” leave the possibility of sanctions and discipline out of the question as they were privately exercising free speech. Their rather un-private Facebook invite is what tipped off the whole school to the event, but the speech held therein is still protected. It is the students’ united free speech that counters this ignorance and racial insensitivity. Students exercising their free speech to get the message across. There is nothing that can be done about what has already taken place, but for all to move forward with a more mature and cultured mind would be a sound solution.

Listen, we’ve all heard that “everyone’s a little racist”. Sure. Yeah. Jokes about differences are as common as jokes about similarities. But to offer the benefit of the doubt, they probably didn’t mean much harm. I do not believe the party goers want to bring back slavery or even think all African Americans are gang banging thugs. Reasonable people don’t have those beliefs, and just because they did something stupid doesn’t mean they’re not just regular students.

I don’t know any of the frat members or party goers, I don’t know what degree of racism they harbor, but the racism is the enemy, not the individuals. I’m guessing it’s more ignorance than malice. Bad judgment, a worse sense of humor. Most innocent case scenario, it’s a Satan-awful sense of humor and not deeply seeded racism. Picked a bad target for their imbecilic humor because they heard it was Black History Month, probably didn’t declare war on African Americans. Well, the target has a very important cultural history in this nation and has been oppressed before, so now the target’s fighting back. There is no refuge for such inappropriate behavior, the presence of which they themselves made public on Facebook.

I am not making excuses for these clowns, I just don’t want to place them into a stereotype they way their little party did for the “ghetto”. The “Compton Cookout” participants are college students and need to be held responsible for offending many people. By this age and level of education, we should all know better. The privilege and responsibilities of being a college student need to be taken seriously. Ignorance is not a panacea excuse- college students are especially responsible for their own level of ignorance.

I consider this to be an issue of individual responsibility. The fraternities and whatever other official organizations that are linked to the “Compton Cookout” will release statements that say the right things and they’ll distance themselves from the whole thing. That’s fine. It comes down to individuals and their personal responsibility to not attempt to humiliate another culture during or because the nation is celebrating their important history. I hope nobody will say, “this party is typical stupid frat boy behavior”- the frats weren’t officially involved, and the individual members who were need to be considered as individuals that made a stupid choice, not blocked together as a single entity of what we think is frat boy idiocy. It is as individuals that they will hear what free speech is about.

Using legal means of free speech to condemn the event and its participants behavior is a strong way to counter their own pathetic expression of speech. Tell them it’s hateful, disrespectful, inappropriate, immature, and unfunny. Tell them hard. Tell them you know what legal protections they can hide behind, and then use your free speech to tell them what you think about their party. Somewhere in our GEs, we’ve heard the speech of tolerance and cultural diversity will overpower the speech of hate and ignorance. It’s time to prove it.


One response to “Trying to Make Sense of the “Compton Cookout”

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  1. You real can’t take these uneducated UCSD white trailer trash anywhere. This is what happens when more than one of these guys puts their minds together.

    Oh, where exactly was a speech going on? Thats right, no where, but keep plucking that chicken.

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