Clemson University Probes Racist Party

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By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 8:09 PM

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson University President James Barker on Tuesday decried a party where white students mocked black stereotypes by drinking malt liquor and at least one student dressed in black face.

Barker said in a letter to students and faculty the university was investigating. The NAACP also confirmed it was looking into the Clemson party and at least three other similar events held at universities throughout the country.

"I was appalled, angered and disappointed when I learned that a group of Clemson students participated in activities at an off-campus party that appeared to mock and disparage African Americans," Barker said. "Many people have been offended and deeply hurt."

Later in the day, about 50 students and local residents gathered about 20 miles from campus at a library where students said they would plan a demonstration at the school and suggested apologies were needed from the party's planners and university officials.

"Yes, it may have been free speech but it was disrespectful and that's why we're mad," said Ranniese McDonald, 20, a junior engineering student. "We need to come together to say, 'Racism is alive and this will not be tolerated.'"

School officials said they became aware of the party over the weekend and have met with some of the offended students. The party, which students said had a "gangsta" theme, was held the day before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Pictures from the party were posted on the social networking Web site Facebook.com.

Following uproar from the photos, party planners issued an unsigned apology letter through the school for "any disrespect we have caused."

"We invited all races and types of peoples and never meant any racial harm," according to the letter, which was provided to The Associated Press by school officials.

"We want everyone to know how sorry we are, and that we are willing to do anything to make things right," the letter said.

Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the party wasn't "just harmless fun."

"We once lynched African-Americans as good fun and humor," Randolph said. "We also execute them at a real high rate for fun and humor. We also don't educate them or pay them like we pay others in the community and that's fun and humorous to a lot of people."


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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