This week in “Philly race relations gone wrong,” two major institutions that pride themselves on representing the best of what the city has to offer — Philadelphia Magazine and the University of Pennsylvania — dropped the ball, yet again.
On local newsstands, there’s an embarrassing October front cover story on education that completely omits black student representation. Interesting fact: 52 percent of Philly’s school district is black and 19 percent is Hispanic. So why does the cover appear to only have all white kids and a subtle hint of Asian and Latino representation?
Even worse, the subtitle of the cover heading reads, “How to get your kid a great education … without moving to the ‘burbs.”
Clearly without black kids being taken into account, one would infer Philly Mag suggested.
Tom McGrath, editor of Philly Mag, took to Facebook to apologize for how the staff “blew it” and “should have done better.” But after the controversy of its arguably offensive 2013 cover story “Being White In Philly,” perhaps Philly Mag is too accustomed to messing up and repeating said offenses. Such a similar case can be said for predominately white fraternities and sororities at Penn.
After a string of racially insensitive parties and acts (last year, Penn’s Chi Omega sorority and Beta Theta Pi fraternity chapters threw a West Philly "gangsta" themed party and Phi Delta Theta fraternity had a black “Beyoncé” blow up doll in their annual holiday card), it continues.
This time, it’s the Phi fraternity who initially planned to throw a “Trap House” themed party where only Penn students were invited publically on Facebook and “no narcs allowed” for this Friday’s festivities. After internal and public backlash, the fraternity has now replaced the original event cover photo of a stereotypical black drug dealer counting stacks of money and later renamed the event “Phi Presents: Trap Music Party.”
After talking with current peers at my alma mater, some black students have been divided on the issue. Penn has a storied history of white Greek life excluding and debasing people of color. One black student on Facebook told me that he felt the music was going to be a way that white frats could appeal to increasing diversity within the party scene with such music.
This comes after numerous complaints from black students that such parties seem to purposely exclude them. But just like Philly Mag’s lackluster apology and Penn’s white frats’ pathetic attempt to diversify — this is really low hanging fruit that doesn’t solve anything.
Philly Mag — if you want to not constantly offend marginalized communities, actually hire more editors of color that wouldn’t let such errors happen. You cannot speak for us or understand us if we aren’t present. The same goes for Penn fraternities and sororities — this isn’t a Wharton consumer psychology course, stop putting the responsibility on black students to solely suggest what’s racially offensively but take initiative by doing your part to just stop it.
Otherwise, these issues will continue to persist and once again our city’s ability to evolve will continue to be undermined.