Duke Fraternity Demonstrates Proper Way to Apologize For Being Racist

The fraternity responsible for throwing a party that encouraged invitees to dress like sexy Pilgrims and Indians has apologized for acting sort of racist. As an added bonus, they've reached out to the on-campus Native American student organization and refrained from calling for a round of high fives in the process. Progress?

In recent days, several readers sent in tips expressing frustration over Duke University's Pi Kappa Phi fraternity party that asked, among other things, for attendees to bring their "Pochahotness" to a big drinking party in their teepee.

This understandably upset Native American student groups across the country. To add insult to injury, the party was thrown around Thanksgiving, November is Native American Heritage Month, and Alpha Pi Omega (the country's largest and oldest Native American sorority), had planned on expanding onto Duke's campus next semester. The student group issued a statement which read, in part,

The fraternity's actions blatantly contribute to the stereotyping and marginalization of Native Americans. Although the Native community at Duke is small, there is no excuse for the racism and complete disregard for our traditions displayed by this party and its advertising.

Now, usually stories like this end with people writing defiant "I'm sorry you got upset" non-apologies, but Phi Kappa Phi atoned for their racism in a way that would lead me to call the brothers a classy collective of gents if this whole debacle hadn't started with a sexy Indians party. For starters, fraternity President Tyler Donahue wrote a letter of apology to the student newspaper that was humble, sincere-sounding, and did not end with a round of high fives.

On Nov. 19, the Mu Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi hosted an RLHS-approved party that was intended to celebrate Thanksgiving. We chose the theme of Thanksgiving because of the close proximity of our event and the national holiday. At the time, we didn't realize that such a theme would offend so many of our classmates and the Native-American community as a whole. We were in no way attempting to glorify a history of atrocities committed against Native Americans. Regardless of our intentions, we sincerely apologize to our peers and the members of the Native-American community who were offended by the theme and our portrayal of Thanksgiving. As a fraternity, we will always welcome constructive criticism in the interest of fostering a better University community. In addition, we apologize to the student body for reflecting poorly on the school. A single day in which the achievements and good intentions of the students at this University are overshadowed by negative attention is one day too many. Further, the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi hope that the issues raised by this unfortunate incident will give rise to a larger discussion within the Duke University community.

It's clear from the discussions that have emerged since our Thanksgiving party that this issue pertains to more than just our group of 68 young men. It is undeniable that there is a need for a dialogue between the Native-American community and the larger Duke community. For that reason, we encourage anyone who is concerned or curious about this issue to join the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi and the Native American Student Association Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Center for Multicultural Affairs in the Bryan Center for "Culture Clash." This event will be a learning opportunity for everyone and a chance for our fraternity and any other interested parties to learn more about a culture that we admittedly don't know enough about.

Kudos to them for owning up to what was a bad idea in the first place and for offering a mea culpa rather than defensive bro-ing down. And their reaching out to the Native American community on campus is a positive first step.

Hopefully, it's not the last.

A Message from Pi Kapp [Duke Chronicle]