‘Gap Bah’ theme for Emma bop deemed racist and insensitive

The event description said ‘grab your elephant trousers and neon face paint’

CN: Racism

Last Saturday, the theme for Emma’s bar extension (their equivalent of a bop) was announced as ‘Gap Bah.’ The post detailing this has been deemed ‘racist’ and ‘insensitive’, and it provoked anger and frustration among students. Initially, the bar managers were reluctant to acknowledge it as racist, but after pressure from the College community and statements from the Senior Tutor and the ECSU (Emmanuel College Student Union), the theme was removed and will be replaced with something else.

The event description told students to “grab your elephant trousers and neon face paint”, and declared the night will be “Pho-King great!” Meanwhile, the people featured in the header image were either wearing rice hats or had neon tribalist face paint photoshopped onto their faces.

In an official statement, the ECSU Committee said: “Certain phrases used in the description and culturally appropriative images used in the header photo were wholly inappropriate and offensive to multiple communities within College, promoting and perpetuating stereotypes of numerous cultures. We were concerned about the real risk that the theme would encourage appropriate and egregiously racist costumes.”

The bop theme reveal post received a lot of love and laugh reacts, which was regarded by many as disturbing and worrying. Following a discussion between the ECSU and the bar managers, the event was taken down. The managers initially issued a short apology via Instagram, but the ESCU took the view that this was not substantial enough, apologising on the bar managers’ behalf in their statement.

Later, the managers later issued a full apology in their own official statement. They said: “We would both like to express our deep regret over the choice of theme and publicity for the recent Bar Extension. We never intended to cause any upset or make any member of our community in college feel uncomfortable or targeted, but we don’t intend this as any kind of excuse. We are both deeply sorry that our actions caused your offence.”

The Senior Tutor also sent out a statement which deemed the proposed the theme “completely unacceptable” and praised the ECSU for their insistence that the event not go ahead with this theme.

He accepted that the bar managers were acting out of a “lack of thought and lack of sensitivity”, but said it raises wider problems which need to be addressed. He stated: “Racism, to speak plainly, is everyone’s problem, and everyone’s responsibility. None of us who benefit from privilege can claim to be immune: the whole point of unconscious bias is that it is unconscious. As someone of mixed heritage, I understand something of how prejudice works, mostly surreptitiously, sometimes explicitly.”

He went on to say that it is the College’s duty to ensure everyone’s complaints are taken seriously and everyone feels included at Emmanuel.

A plan of action for moving forward was also proposed by the Senior Tutor. He suggested greater oversight of the bar by himself and the Bursar, a larger team of bar managers and closer cooperation with the ECSU.

He claims the College will, “redouble our efforts to make all of the College a place where discrimination in any form will not be tolerated.”