Earlier this month, Equality and Justice partnered with the Honor’s Student Council, the MLK Scholars, and the University Library Associations to host an event called How Hip Hop Taught a Kid from Kentucky What an Ally Should Be. In this event, Dr. Mickey Hess spoke with our own Dr. Kaila Story about his life growing up in a predominantly white community in Kentucky. He talked about coming to Louisville and realizing what white privilege is. He shared his journey of learning how to combat active and passive racist comments from people back home and transitioning from a casual hip-hop fan to a hip-hop scholar who actively teaches allyship. The event was an open and honest conversation about the nature of white allyship and how it can easily become cringy and destructive if allies are not informed and intentional. As an ally, the event forced me to hold a mirror to my own actions and I am grateful for the tools that it gave me.
Fast forward to two weeks later as I scrolled through Instagram and saw that a girl from my high school posted a picture from a party with a background that said “Frat Lives Matter.” I could not keep scrolling. I had gone to school with this girl from middle school until senior year of high-school. I would not have characterized us as good friends, but we were close acquaintances. I don’t know what the theme of the party was, or what lead her to be there that night. However, the fact remains that she saw that banner and without recognizing an issue with it, took a picture.
I screenshotted the photo and tried to find a way to respond. I knew that as clever as the primarily white boys of the fraternity at her school may be, this could not have been the first time the phrase was used. I googled it and sure enough, there were several new stories from two years ago when the Kappa Sigma fraternity of UConn emblazoned “Frat Lives Matter” on the spirit rock of their school after 6 of their brothers were arrested. The men had illegally served alcohol to a 19-year-old female student who was killed after drunkenly wandering into traffic on the way home from the frat’s party. The message was painted on February 26th, 2017, the fifth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death.
I don’t know if the men who hosted the party my friend posted about were aware of this history, but that doesn’t matter. The Black Lives Matter movement was started to speak out against years of violence against the black community by the state and vigilantes. White men who have the means to join a fraternity have no reason to mock a movement with such a powerful and important message, a message that was not created for them. That banner sends out two messages. First, the men of that fraternity are ignorant to what Black Lives Matter stands for. Second, that there were several people outside of the frat that attended the party despite its message of ignorance and indifference. Both of these truths are unacceptable in 2019. It is never okay to make a joke of injustice against marginalized groups, and there is nothing lighthearted about posting photos of these mockeries. If you are an ally of the black community only sometime, then you are not an ally at all. I dm’d the girl who posted the photo with a link to the news story about the original “Frat Lives Matter” incident and asked her to consider removing the post. I have not yet received a response, but I am hopeful that we can have a meaningful conversation about the true implications of that banner and it will lead to her post and the banner being removed.
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