The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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UPC’s misstep illustrates larger problem

There’s a prevailing problem in America’s popular culture that has sunk its teeth deep into Utah’s homogenous social fabric.

Just because we often witness serious racial issues being discussed widely in a satirical voice in many of our major media outlets–such as by numerous popular comedians–we don’t own the right to exploit those issues ourselves.

The Union Programming Council is currently learning that lesson right now, after a series of posters for its upcoming “Crimson Nights” program were construed as being socially offensive and spawned complaints of insensitivity from the Black Student Union and MEChA.

The marketing effort–based on the theme of seven deadly sins–touted events for their “envy” day like “make your own grill and bling” and a “hair extensions booth.” The BSU argues those concepts showed a clear racial theme that equated black culture with sinfulness.

Similarly, MEChA was upset because the events for “sloth” included a “Lovesac Siesta,” which they took to be a play on the stereotype that Mexicans are lazy (though the event is sponsored by a company called “Siesta Sac,” an oversight that seems to be the result of the inaccurate moniker).

Upon hearing of these complaints, UPC promptly cancelled all of the offensive activities and took down the posters. The reaction was appropriate, though the intent was likely benevolent in the first place. Still, UPC has a serious headache on its hands, and deservedly.

Problems such as these arise when there is a lack of dialogue among student regarding their experiences. Students at the U should embrace opportunities to educate themselves about other cultures so that they don’t negligently offend their fellow students or colleagues.

Part of the larger problem is that when elements of another ethnic group’s culture get absorbed into the mainstream, it becomes all too easy to adopt those elements as one’s own. At that point, how people choose to use these elements becomes a slippery slope. Things that may seem humorous in the company of your friends–like a “bling competition”–might evoke different feelings in others.

If UPC members had considered another perspective they’d have realized “hair extensions” makes a statement not about envy, but black people, and thus the poster ended up conflating hip-hop, blacks and the sin of envy into an absurd, concerning sum that illustrates many of the UPC’s misconceptions about African-American culture. If they had just given it a second thought, they probably would have curtailed this whole situation.

As college students, we need to take a cue from the scholars that surround us, and not Carlos Mencia. There is no place in an educated, informed culture for exploitation of racial stereotypes.

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