University of California-Irvine fraternity Lambda Theta Delta is facing heavy criticism today for a promotional video that many are calling racist.
The video features four fraternity brothers dancing to the Justin Timberlake song Suit & Tie. One of the members, supposedly portraying Jay-Z in the video, is seen in blackface – a form of makeup in which performers attempt to look like a stereotyped caricature of a black person.
UC Irvine’s vice president of student affairs Thomas Parham says the school is investigating the video. “We are dismayed to see what I think is insensitive in a video parody that was made by these individuals," he said.
Parham said the school’s investigation would attempt to uncover whether the fraternity condoned the video. “What we have to investigate is whether it's just individuals or just an organization or whether it's both that are responsible,” he said.
Lambda Theta Delta, the self described “first and largest Asian Greek fraternity” at UC-Irvine, has issued a lengthy apology on Facebook for the video. The apology called the behavior “simply unacceptable,” and said “the individuals responsible for the video have already been reprimanded within the organization.”
The fraternity’s apology added that “Regardless of the circumstances, the video proves the existence of racism and ignorance today. Lambda Theta Delta in no way promotes these values nor perpetuates them.”
When the video was posted to YouTube earlier this month, a disclaimer was included in the caption saying “No racism intended.” Patrick Chen, a student government official at UC-Irvine, says the caption "indicates that the makers of the video DID know on SOME cognitive level that what they were doing might be considered racist."
Chen also noted that the fraternity’s rush video featured a person in blackface as well.
This is not the first time UC-Irvine has been criticized for racially insensitive actions. In 2011, the campus cafeteria served chicken and waffles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The story is reminiscent of the criticism directed towards the University of Florida’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity in October of last year. The fraternity faced public scrutiny after throwing (note the irony here) an Asian-themed party featuring stereotypical Asian attire and make-up.