LTTE: Do not belittle the Multicultural Greek Council’s protest

Guest Author

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. Letters to the Editor reflect the view of a member of the campus community and are submitted to the publication for approval.

Dear Editor, 

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This letter is a response to to CJ Ash’s article “Multicultural Greek Council’s protest was an overreaction” that ran last Tuesday.  

Collegian Contributor CJ Ash published an opinion column accusing the Multicultural Greek Council of overreacting to Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity’s sale of T shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Queens of the Jungle.”

After the MGC claimed that the shirts contained culturally insensitive content with potentially racist implications, Ash took to the press, claiming that the MGC’s protest was “dominating the public discourse with trivialities,” as well as “incorporating victim culture into their identities”.

This isn’t the first time that CJ Ash has aired similar views in The Collegian, and with this column he continues to represent himself and Turning Point USA with astounding insensitivity toward the plight of American people of color.

In the end, one must ask for whom these problems are “trivialities,” and for whom they are a threatening reassurance, that white Americans will expend more effort defending a T shirt than learning the role that coded language plays in upholding global white supremacy.

In this most recent column, Ash seems to believe that because the phrase “Jungle Queen” doesn’t include the N word, it couldn’t possibly contribute to the threat of institutional and personal violence that is a constant reality for the Black student body at CSU. Rather, he thinks that they should “Relax and stop looking for reasons to feel victimized.” To demonstrate how trivial the phrase “Jungle Queens” really is, he loosely references its origins in Hindi language, and how a more sensible debate may be whether the shirts are a reference to lions and tigers.

Let’s talk about the origins of the phrase “Jungle Queen.” Simianization, the act of ascribing nonhuman ape characteristics to people of a certain ethnicity, is synonymous with the very origins of European and North American slave trafficking in Africa.

It was clearly visible at the Bronx Zoo int 1906, when a Congolese man named Ota Benga was put on display in a cage along with Apache Chief Geronimo, whom they displayed as “The Human Tyger”, and “The Jungle Pygmy”. The cages were also inhabited by actual monkeys. During the Congolese Genocide, the Webster Collection of Social Anthropology published findings that Africans were “midway between the Oran-utang [sic] and the European white.”

Despite the beliefs of neoliberal whites like CJ Ash, racism did not die in the 20th century. Simianization was alive and well in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, when commodity items appeared in online stores depicting Obama as a monkey.

Earlier this year, clothing brand H&M experienced a severance of their Black celebrity representatives when they released a sweatshirt with the text “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”, modeled by a Black boy. Several studies found that a majority of surveyed white Americans unconsciously associate Black people with apes.

Ash stated in his column that the phrase is an adaptation of “King of the Jungle,” which he contends is a reference to lions. Perhaps, it is actually a reference to the most popular “King of the Jungle” in American pop culture; King Louie, an ape from “The Jungle Books”, a series of stories by the same man who authored the infamous “White Man’s Burden”. When Disney picked up “The Jungle Books” for their original animated film, they originally attempted to cast Black musician Louis Armstrong as the “King of the Jungle”. He declined the role.

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CJ Ash can call this event trivial. He cannot deny centuries of oppression legitimated by the notion that people of color are not entirely human.

In the end, one must ask for whom these problems are “trivialities,” and for whom they are a threatening reassurance, that white Americans will expend more effort defending a T shirt than learning the role that coded language plays in upholding global white supremacy.

As an aside, you’d think that Ash, who also defended the shirts by mentioning that their sales benefited a disability services organization, could have at least refrained from using the word “insanity” to describe what he views as negativity in society today. Clearly, Ash and Pi Kappa Phi are unconcerned with the impact of their words.

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