University of Louisville staff and the school’s president, James Ramsey, are under fire for donning Latino stereotype-themed costumes for a Halloween party.
As reported by the Courier-Journal, a photo emerged of school president James Ramsey and about a dozen Lousiville staff members dressed like stereotypical, “Bandito” Mexicans. The picture was taken at Amelia Place, a mansion owned by the University of Louisville Foundation. It was reportedly Jane Ramsey, James’s wife, who handed out the “Mexican-themed” costumes to partygoers as they arrived.
The completed look for party attendants featured ponchos, sombreros and fake mustaches. (Because that’s totally how Mexicans look, right?) Well, the costumes left a bad taste in quite a few mouths and led to a major public backlash against the university.
The staff at the University of Louisville, including President James Ramsey, dressed in stereotypical Mexican garb. pic.twitter.com/CtZspQIWyg
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 29, 2015
Ramsey has since apologized for the photo and costume. Kathleen Smith, chief of staff to the president, released a statement explaining that staff members in the controversial photo are “very sorry” to have caused offense. University of Louisville spokesman John Karman said the photo featuring James Ramsey and Louisville staff members was taken during a party for the university’s president. Karman said complaints began pouring in over the photo and costume choices on Thursday.
There have been calls by Univ. of Louisville students for Ramsey to resign. Olivia Krauth, the editor of the student newspaper The Louisville Cardinal, noted that had a fraternity thrown such a racist “party” there would be serious consequences.
“If a fraternity threw a party with a Mexican theme and pictures of them in these outfits got out, they would be in huge trouble just like countless other Greek organizations across the country in the past few years.”
The fact that it is indeed the university’s staff and its own president who are caught up in this scandal is hugely disappointing to Krauth. She said she “expected better” of James Ramsey. According to the New York Daily News, the school’s small (3.4 percent) Latino population was hurt and offended by the stereotypical images. “I was appalled,” said freshman Leonardo Salinas. “It’s not just offensive to Mexicans; it’s offensive to the immigrant community as a whole.”
“How did it not click in anybody’s mind that it was a very bad idea?”
How? Quite possibly because it’s, sadly, still very common for people to don racist costumes that mock minorities and other ethnic groups during Halloween. Instead of dressing like ghosts, goblins, or vampires, some Americans think it’s “cute” or “fun” to stereotype Native Americans, Middle Eastern immigrants, African-Americans, or Latinos. Often, these people opt for the most narrow-minded representation of these groups and their cultures.
Sarah Nuñez, the director of the Office of Hispanic and Latino initiatives at the Univ. of Louisville, said that she was contacted by multiple offended Latino students. Smith reportedly met with a top member of the Office of Hispanic and Latino initiatives. The chief of staff said, “This event shows we have much more to learn about our community.” It also shows that some people have a lot to learn about what it means to be in poor taste.
Nuñez drove the point home rather succinctly, stating, “We’re human beings, we’re not costumes.”
— E Wayne Ross (@EWayneRoss) October 30, 2015
The “Bandito” or Mexican bandit, which was what was worn at James Ramsey’s party, is a stereotype of the “dirty, irrational, treacherous, and violent” Latino. It is a negative representation made popular in Western movies.
Have you seen the University of Louisville party costumes? Do you think James Ramsey should resign over them? Share your thoughts below.
[Photo via Shutterstock]