This weekend, a hipstery bar in hipstery Brooklyn will throw a hipstery party called Madam Wu's Good Luck Banquet of the Senses. Based on the invitation, it will be like going to a party thrown by actual racists in 1950, but apparently someone thought it was okay because it's happening ironically in the year 2013. Good, easy-to-follow, basic rule of party throwing: don't throw "race-themed" parties.
Madam Wu's Good Luck Banquet of the Assholes will be held in the Red Lotus Room, a venue in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, on Saturday. The invitation originally encouraged attendees to wear "coolie couture" or clothing for "tea with the Emperor, dragon dancing, silk pajamas." There will also be "ancient Chinese secret" and "open sesame noodles." Here's the original invite:
And the original text from its Facebook equivalent:
on Saturday, Nov. 23
Madam Wu's Good Luck Banquet of the Senses
Last Ride on the Orient Express
with live music by:
The New York Fowl (New York Howl reunion)
with your dj's:
DJ Dirty Finger
plus special guests from faraway lands
in the Cabaret Room:
The Mysteries of Solomon
Nate Hill in "Trophy Scarves"
The Mourning Glories
Vintage Cartoons on Film by Thomas Stathes
Aerial Amazement by Kae Burke
Modern Dance Awareness Society
Light Circus Extraordinaire by Norm Francouer
Visuals by The Sperm Whale
Open Sesame Noodles
Ancient Chinese Secrets
and much, much more!
Dress for travels along the Silk Road, tea with the Emperor, coolie
couture, dragon dancing, silk pajamas.
10 Yuan before 11:00 or way late; 20 Yuan otherwise. Doors 10:00; show 11:00.
At The Red Lotus Room - 893 Bergen Street bet. Franklin and Classon.
C train to Franklin Ave. Walk with traffic on Franklin, take a right
Our rules apply, but smoking in the yard or on the roof, pls. Please
have I.D. that says you're 21+.
For best results at the door, we do recommend arriving before 12:30 or
Confucius say fun is good.
Please forward wildly!
While throwing old timey cultural ignorance-themed parties might be cool kitschy fun for a certain subset of the Urban Youths, blogger Angry Asian Man saw things differently. He writes,
Basically, it's an excuse for ignorant, misguided people to get their Orientalist thrills for the night.
Presented by hipster party purveyor Rubulad, the evening promises there will be "Open Sesame Noodles," "Ancient Chinese Secrets" and other culturally insensitive bullshit, and guests are encouraged to dress in "coolie couture, dragon dancing, silk pajamas" — whatever the hell that means.
Here's what "coolie couture" means — it means that the organizers of the party either don't know what a "coolie" is or are Olympian dickheads. One unamused Facebook commenter noted,
You're seriously telling people to come in coolie couture? Excerpted from Wiklipedia: Coolies were Asian laborers—some of these laborers signed contracts based on misleading promises, some were kidnapped, some were victims of clan violence whose captors sold them to coolie brokers, while others sold themselves to pay off gambling debts. Most were shipped on American vessels and numbered about 600,000 per year. Conditions on board these and other ships were overcrowded, unsanitary, and brutal. The terms of the contract were often not honored, so many laborers ended up working on Cuban sugar plantations or in Peruvian guano pits. Like slaves, some were sold at auction and most worked in gangs under the command of a strict overseer.
The coolie has trade has often been compared to the slave trade. Many coolies were first deceived or kidnapped and then kept in barracoons (detention centres) or loading vessels in the ports of departure, as were African slaves. Their voyages, which are sometimes called the Pacific Passage, were as inhumane and dangerous as the notorious Middle Passage. Mortality was very high. They were sold like animals and were taken to work in plantations or mines under appalling living and working conditions. The duration of a contract was typically five to eight years, but many coolies did not live out their term of service because of the hard labour and mistreatment. Those who did live were often forced to remain in servitude beyond the contracted period.
Oops. Might as well have called it "12 Years A Rave."
Organizers were mildly apologetic (but mostly defensive) about accusations that throwing an Asian-themed party is a kind of racist shitpile thing to do and responded by changing some of the wording in the Facebook invite (but not on the hand-drawn invitation), like that would change the fact that they're throwing an Asia-themed party.
Hokay people. We are taking back our event page now. We have let this conversation roll in the interest of free speech and because the nature of racism is, we think, a good topic but as things have disintegrated completely into name calling, we think it's best to put the brakes on. We will, by way of keeping the peace, remove the parts of our invitation (from the text version) that seem to be most upsetting and, by the way, have already apologized two days ago.
Since you are wondering, Rubulad events are not put together by a bunch of "white people" but include a broad spectrum of ethnicities (yes, Asians too!) and sexual orientations. We are an art party and we chose our themes based on what kinds of art we'd like to make, which tend to be complimentary rather than insulting. We are lovers not fighters and while we do welcome you to continue your conversation elsewhere on one of your own pages, will be deleting some of these threads in the hopes that you will now lay down your pitchforks.
God, guys. They APOLOGIZED okay?
Unfortunately, wanting to make cool art doesn't mean that history doesn't exist. And having an Asian (or gay) friend doesn't mean that racism doesn't exist. Saying "it has nothing to do with race!" or yelling IRONY or ART doesn't sanitize words and symbols from their historical meanings.
Know what this leads to? A feeling I've come to know well, a feeling that rises in my chest every time someone with whom I share a borough publicly does something oblivious to the point of vicarious humiliation — Brooklynbarrassment. This sort of crap is why The New York Times keepssending its corduroy pants-wearing writers to Brooklyn to write more hipster anthropological pieces that give my midwestern relatives so, so much ammunition to make fun of me when I'm home for holidays. Stop it, guys. Please.