Two tribes gone to war

SSB committee accused of racism for choosing tribal theme

The SSB’s theme has come under fire from a group of students who claim it is racist.

The legendary charity ball, which aims to promote a greater awareness of safer sex, will have a ‘tribal’ theme this year.

But new campaign group Exeter Students for Social Justice hit out at the dress code, demanding an apology and mandatory ‘Privilege Awareness Training’ for the organizing committee.

The group, which has just 40 likes on Facebook, argues the theme is “racist and needs to go”. They define tribal as “a colonialist and racist term used by the white West in the past and present to oppress People of Colour throughout the world.”

Haley McNally sent a message of support, writing: “This is actually so blatantly racist it both makes [me] angry because an educational institution is holding an event like this and not following international human rights (particularly UNDRIP, among many others), and it makes me laugh because it is so outrageously stupid that people would even think this isn’t offensive.”

The Guild and RAG declined to comment but in February the Guild released a statement entitled “A Response to Banter – the appearance of prejudice”, in which it addresses potential issues of “blacking up” and “cross dressing”.

The message says the Guild: “Do express disapproval of unthinking and insulting appearances against minority student groups. Please think before you act and be considerate of others around you.”

The facebook group accusing the SSB committee of racism

Exeter Students for Social Justice has so far declined to comment.

Last year’s SSB – whose theme was Fantasia – raised £40,000 for HIV and AIDS charities.

Read Tab editor Matt McDonald’s views on the debate here.

The Tab can reveal that, at the time of writing this article, no official complaints have been registered with The Guild.

  • Julian New

    Favorite sex position… "oh mine is called the virgin, you stand there with your legs close shut waiting for the next right person to come along" ..this kind of attitude should be our main concern!

  • joe

    the issue isn't about 'blacking up' – it's about the appropriation of cultures that have been oppressed and eliminated throughout history by white people. it's about the largely white and heavily privileged student mass that take these symbols and images of huge cultural importance and trivialise them into barely-concealing costumes for a glorified fancy-dress party. it's about having the sensitivity to realise that this is an offensive stealing of cultures that we have slaved and slaughtered throughout history, regardless of intent.

    • jack

      how on earth do you "steal" a culture? minority groups would surely find more offensive the fact you think you can steal their culture than imitate it

    • Damian Jeffries

      I still call Istanbul, Constantinople and Mumbai, Bombay.

    • Ollie Norman

      Where do you draw the line thoug? Am I not allowed to play U.S. hip hop because that's appropriation of black American culture?

  • anon

    How do you connect the word 'Tribal' to ONLY people of colour? That seems a bit racist in itself. Are you not counting the numerous (mainly white skinned) tribes that used to exist throughout England, Wales, Scotland, not to mention the rest of Europe?

    • Anon. Y. Mous

      But wait! Look at the imagery that is developed by the safer sex ball: do you see anything that is not associated with racialised cultures?
      Of course, tribal in the "proper" or "dictionary" sense of the word doesn't apply only to folks of colour. On the other hand, the dominant imagery linked with the idea of "tribal" is that of "other", racialised cultures.

  • anon

    Celtic tribes. Your argument is invalid.

  • Hector Chamberlain

    I can completely understand this cause, I saw a Chinese person wearing a barbour and felt deeply offended

  • Rob

    This comment thread: a bunch of white people explaining what they think is and isn't racist.

  • Fernando Poo

    I just had a DNA test and am 3% Neanderthal. I suspect that another human species is just about as tribal as it can get.

    Still, on behalf of my fellow Neanderthals and I, I give you permission to use our underpants in your tribal-themed celebrations.

    Have a great time!

  • Pingback: ‘Tribal’ theme for Exeter’s Safer Sex Ball is racist, scream right-on killjoys. But ‘racism awareness’ has run out of steam at universities – Telegraph Blogs « Innerstanding Isness()

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