Queen’s University is investigating a party held by students that was deemed as racist.
Beerfest is an annual event held by Queen’s students and is based around a night of drinking games. The theme this year was “Countries of the World”. The mostly white participants dressed up as Buddhist monks, Middle Eastern sheiks, Viet Cong fighters and Rastafarians.
According to a Queen’s graduate, students were encouraged to paint their skin for believability in previous years. The party is well-known among students and hosting it is a tradition that gets passed down to new students.
Principal of Queen’s Daniel Woolf said in a statement regarding the party, “Queen’s strives to be a diverse and inclusive community free from discrimination or harassment of any kind. Any event that degrades, mocks, or marginalizes a group or groups of people is completely unacceptable.”
“As far as we can ascertain, this event did not occur on campus. No event of this kind would be sanctioned by the university’s senior administration. However, we are taking the matter very seriously, and continue to look into it.”
Photos of the party, while not available on Facebook anymore, were on Canadian comedian Celeste Yim’s Facebook timeline. She proceeded to post them on her twitter page, making the photos go viral.
Yim’s tweets concerning the party received backlash by people defending the event.
People tweeted at Yim saying the party had no malicious intent and costumes were meant to celebrate countries and not belittle them.
Yim disagreed with those who defended the party and wrote a special to The Globe and Mail on the subject.
“There is a long history – fraught with violence, fetishization, and commodification – of the mischaracterizing of non-white people. Mexicans are criminals, indigenous peoples are drunks. Asians wear rice hats,” she wrote.
In the article, Yim said she was “seized with alarm and shame” when she saw photos of the party on Facebook.
“Should I have felt wronged when a neighbour of Chinese descent showed up for a Halloween party dressed as a “Canadian hoser,” replete with red plaid over-shirt, tuque, and a couple of missing front teeth? I doubt there was a soul in the house thinking, “Way to perpetuate a negative stereotype,” he wrote.
“Today, some 20-year-olds who thought it might be fun to dress up as someone from a different country for a costume party are being branded as bigots – or worse.”
In the article, Mason agreed that racism is a serious issue and should not be perpetuated in anyway, but we should not ignore our social and political efforts towards racism over the years by “citing examples of it that are an overreach and of such a tenuous nature they alarm people for an entirely different reason.”
The response to Mason’s article was split among the internet. Some people responded to the article in agreement to Mason’s words…
… while others did not.
The event has also stirred a debate on the student run Facebook group Overheard at Queen’s. Several students agreed with Yim that the costumes were stereotyping groups of people, while others said the costumes were not offensive, the photos were taken out of proportion, and people are becoming overly sensitive.
Someone wrote “make racists afraid again” in chalk outside the John Deutch University Centre, Queen’s main building on campus, after the party.
First year engineering student Colin Gill said in a debate outside of the John Deutch University Centre that the media blew the party out of proportion, while his friends Carter Gant and Jackson Kustec said the students must have known the costumes were wrong.
The student government at Queen’s, Alma Mater Society, said they hope to use the event as “an educational opportunity to engage all students in discussion about race and racism on Queen’s.”
CBC asks Queen’s students about the costume party in the video below.