ASU Frat's "MLK Black Party" Defended by Black Civil Rights Advocate
Amid all the outrage over ASU fraternity brothers having an "MLK Black Party," where white students mocked black people to go along with the party's theme, there is one person who's defending the students who hosted the party.
Michael Meyers, who's black and the head of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, urges ASU president Michael Crow not to take disciplinary action against the students involved with the party. New Times needed Meyers to explain this one.
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Images of the students dressed in basketball jerseys and bandanas, throwing up gang signs, and drinking out of a hollowed-out watermelon outraged several local black activists and black ASU students, as they called for action against the students, but Meyers certainly doesn't share their outrage.
"Whether I see something wrong is not the issue," Meyers says. He believes their actions are protected by the First Amendment, so they shouldn't be punished by a public university. Plus, he says he didn't find it particularly racist, anyway.
"If their party was racist, so what?" Meyers says. "It was a party. I mean, where is our sense of humor?"
Meyers, a self-proclaimed liberal who happens to have several friendly appearances on Fox News, says he was laughing at the photos of the party.
Even if the frat party had been more blatantly racist -- a celebration of "Martin Luther Coon Day," Meyers suggested -- he'd still be backing them up, from a First Amendment standpoint.
"That's what makes America great," he says. "You've got to have one standard -- that's the First Amendment."
He's sent an open letter to ASU president Crow, explaining this decision, which you can read in its entirety on the next page of this post.
"Assuming the press reports are correct, local civil rights activists are, in our considered judgment, wrong to demand disciplinary action -- including and up to expulsion of the students who 'insulted' Dr. King and who mocked so-called 'black culture,'" the letter states. "Moreover, as I understand from your university's description of itself, ASU is a public university. As such it is obligated to uphold the constitutional rights of its students to free speech and association. It is -- and you are -- obligated to counter any blowback that would violate the free speech and association rights of your students, no matter that their speech has insulted or offended some or many on campus."
Although the fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, has already been suspended, an ASU spokeswoman told New Times this week that the University "can and will take additional action against the individuals involved."
The Reverend Jarrett Maupin, who also calls himself a civil rights leader, says he wants the students at the party to be expelled. Maupin has called for a boycott of ASU's athletic programs if Crow doesn't meet with local black leaders to address the situation.
Other black leaders and students were behind Maupin as he made his announcement, but not everyone agrees, as you can see from Meyers' comments.
UPDATE: 3:38 p.m.: Immediately after reading this post, Maupin called to respond to Meyers' opinion, saying, "That is probably the most ridiculous statement ever made by an African-American in the history of America."
"I agree that all Americans of every race have equal First Amendment rights," he continued. "They also must deal with the consequences of acting of those rights. The ASU students involved in Tau Kappa Epsilon are facing the consequences of a public display of racist and discriminatory behavior."
Maupin added that he'd pray for Meyers.
"I don't know if he's from Brooklyn, I don't know if he's from Harlem, I don't know if this brother's from planet earth, but his comments certainly aren't reflective of the vast majority of African-Americans," he said.
Read Meyers' letter to Crow on the next page.