Kentucky Derby Party Cancelled For “Recreating An Antebellum South Atmosphere”

250px-Derby220px-Dartmouth_College_shield.svgWe have been discussing the battle over free speech on colleges and universities, particularly with the rise of protests and/or sanctions over “microaggressions” and speech deemed insulting or disparaging to any group. The latest such controversy is at Dartmouth College where a Kentucky Derby party hosted by Kappa Delta Epsilon was cancelled after protests that it was a racist demonstration. The objections however seem disconnected to the historical record of the race.

Starting in 2015, a group of Black Lives Matter protestors targeted the event as overtly racist and “recreating an Antebellum South atmosphere on the Ivy League campus.” The protesters referred to the party celebrating a “bastion of racism, exclusion and oppression.” They also chanted “What is Derby? It’s the face of genocide” and “What is Derby? It’s the face of police brutality.”

Critics have noted that the Derby does not have a record of police brutality. However, it is the historical assertions that have been most criticized. Kappa Delta Epsilon dropped the Kentucky Derby theme “because of its racial connotations.” KDE vice president Nikol Oydanich said “[It is] related to pre-war southern culture.” However, the first running of the Kentucky Derby was held in 1875 – during Reconstruction and a decade after the end of the war.

It was actually modeled not on Southern traditions but European traditions, particularly in England and France. In 1872, Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., (grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition), came back from a trip in Europe to suggest a derby for racing horses. That race would ultimately be held at Churchill Downs and was incorporated as Churchill Downs in 1937 — over 70 years after the Civil War.

As with the recent controversy at Bowdoin over students wearing sombreros or the controversy at Clemson for a Mexican food night, the question is the emerging standard for speech and associations on campuses. The Derby is a sporting event. Parties around the country allow people to have fun in betting on the fastest horses. Some like to put on the hats and fancy dress of the event. None of that makes it racist. More importantly, the standard appears to be not the intention or historical background for an event, but how it is perceived by others. If that is the standard, schools will find themselves on a slippery slope of speech and associational limits.

What do you think?

24 thoughts on “Kentucky Derby Party Cancelled For “Recreating An Antebellum South Atmosphere”

  1. Chinggis say all horse races involve race. If support horse race, must be racist. If jockey get cyst from racing, jockey also race cyst. If female horses race at night then all dreams are night mares. Martin Luther King had dream, not night mare. He stop shut down of 1967 Kentucky Derby.

  2. Apparently, to this group antebellum south means anything southern, and beyond their direct memory.

    What next? Protest against racist greens, corn bread, and fried chicken? Don’t even get me started on iced tea – unless its Long Island.

  3. It’s all about power and intimidation. So long as people cave in to this nonsense, it says more about their lack of a backbone than the BLM people who enjoy kicking them around.

  4. Kentucky was a slave state but was not a Confederate State in the civil war. The Derby is about horse racing. Where is Dartmouth? Did that state ever have slavery? I bet it did.

    If I had a kid going to college at that school I would get him to transfer to a place which is more civilized. In fact I would send him to the University of Louisville. Dartmouth is one of those places where people who go there or went there, think that their itShay don’t stink.

  5. FACT: Today we still have institutional racism. When you have groups that are 2nd Class Citizens, they may sometimes hit the wrong targets trying to fight back, but that doesn’t excuse the institutional racism system.

    A common term that many of today’s racists use is “playing the race card” to shut down debate about our institutional racism system and how to fix it.

    For example: In the former Capital of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia there are multi-million dollar public schools with modern computer labs within 10 miles of downtown Richmond but the inner-city schools are literally falling apart and just a few years ago teachers couldn’t assign homework because they didn’t have enough textbooks for their students to take home. Just this week there are plans by the City of Richmond to build more prisons and detention facilities instead of providing quality education to the predominantly African-American students in the inner-city neighborhoods. Taxpayers, including African-American taxpayers, maintain Richmond’s “Monument Avenue” which predominantly consists of confederate war heroes but refuses to build an African-American slave museum or preserve African-American burial grounds.

    There is also a very alarming pattern on death penalty cases in southern states . Author Michele Alexander recently wrote a book titled “The New Jim Crow” where she pointed out an “exact” pattern: the states that lynched African-Americans during Jim Crow also are the very same states that execute the most African-Americans and have highly dysfunctional justice systems (by design). These states underfund Public Defender’s Offices, abuse the Plea Bargain system to avoid jury trials and have a faulty photo lineup system (according to the Innocence Project) while underfunding African-American school districts like Richmond does.

    Over the past century in many St. Louis area townships and others nationwide, local governments intentionally created neighborhoods that were “financially” out of reach for most African-Americans and some explicitly banned minorities from living in certain neighborhoods until the practice was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    While not perfect, Obama who is more fiscally conservative than both George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were but receives attacks that no other president in American history has ever received – there is only one difference between Obama and other presidents.

    Maybe the frustrated “Black Lives Matters” protesters hit the wrong target this time, but the institutional racism system has always been designed to produce that result – attack the powerless so they hit back against the wrong target. The same racists have also attacked immigrants as well.

    Maybe in places like Richmond, Virginia and Kentucky – the U.S. Supreme Court should force us to provide a quality education and equal opportunity as the “spirit” of the U.S. Constitution calls for in it’s Preamble? Once we no longer have 2nd Class Citizens, there will be no need for a Black Lives Matter movement.

  6. Let me say again, this insanity is why we have Trump. I detest Bubba Clinton but @ least he stood up and spoke truth to these clowns last week.

  7. Here’s something to consider about that racist institution: “Not only was 1875 winner Aristides ridden by an African-American, he was trained by a former slave known for superb horsemanship, Ansel Williamson. Much like the equines he conditioned, Williamson was sold from owner to owner. In 1864, R.A. Alexander, proprietor of the famed Woodburn Stud Farm, purchased Williamson. After emancipation, the former slave continued to work with his former master as did a standout black jockey named Ed Brown who would train the 1877 Kentucky Derby winner Baden-Baden and eventually operate his own racing stable.”

    http://www.history.com/news/the-kentucky-derbys-forgotten-black-jockeys

    • Ansel Williamson was never owned by R.A. Alexander, he was owned by A. Keene Richards and LOANED to Alexander for the duration of the war. He received his freedom (when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed) during the war, while in Alexander’s care. Alexander NEVER own him. After the war Ansel returned to A. Keene Richards’s Bluegrass Farm near Georgetown, Ky.

      William Preston Mangum ll author of “A Kingdom for the Horse”

      • Also you may want to check your dates the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln in September of 1862 which made slavery illegal, so therefore R. A. Alexander could NOT have purchased Williamson in 1864

        • William: Please forward the critique to History.com since the text is a quote from their website.

          BTW: Do you have family in Huntsville, AL? My sister-in-law is a Mangum.

          • All the Mangums in the United States are related in one way or another. There is a Welsh branch which came first and then an Irish branch which came later. The North Carolina Mangums came to North Carolina in about 1748-49 from southern Virginia. My family has been in North Carolina for 300 years and were involed in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from its founding.

  8. I agree with Nick and Jim22 regarding Bill Clinton. I never had much respect for him but I have to say that I was impressed by his standing up to those disrupters. His calling them out came across as truly heartfelt, not just some political angle. Most other politicians have caved to them, so it was refreshing to see him hand them their asses.

  9. RB cites a book titled “The New Jim Crow” for the supposedly eye-opening statistic that the states that lynched the most blacks now execute the most blacks. Well, duh. It’s because that’s where the blacks are. Demographically there were never many blacks in places like Vermont and North Dakota. They’re concentrated mostly in the southern states, so that statistic is essentially meaningless. I’m not sure whether the black author of the book ever took a course in basic statistics, but she might want to consider it.

    As to blacks being second-class citizens, that’s ridiculous. A white person or cop, (or even a Hispanic, as in the case of George Zimmerman), kills a black, and the media is raging for weeks. There are demonstrations in all major cities; the FBI immediately sends of team of investigators, and even the President sticks his nose in it. But a black killing a white? That’s just business as usual. We rarely even hear about it.

    And then there’s the half-century of affirmative action in jobs and education. If being black is such a disadvantage, why did blacks flip out over that white woman Rachel D. claiming to be black? The black commentators were upset because they assumed that she had gotten her college admission and job because she claimed to be black, and they resented that a white person got those special benefits that had been set aside for them. Believe me, no black person will ever apply to college or for a government job claiming to be white or Asian! It’s called black privilege.

  10. Haven’t heard anyone dispute the unequal education claim of children in places like the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area. Most large cities have the exactly same tax-base problem.

    For sake of argument: It seems to me that if on January 1, 2017 all Richmond inner-city public schools were of equal quality as the public schools less than 10 miles away in the suburbs, that Affirmative Action shouldn’t be ended until about 2037.

    20 years from the date that all children receive a near equal quality education as kids less than 10 miles away in the suburbs attending public schools. It could also apply to poor white areas like Appalachian mountain communities until their public schools are improved. It would take about 20 years for the next generation to pass through the education pipeline.

    Does anyone of either party disagree with that? How can we end Affirmative Action until all public schools offer an equal quality education? Places like Richmond have known about this problem for more than 20 years, so we could have already ended AA by now if we made children’s education a top priority.

  11. Granted, we in the USA don’t know how to fix the problem of educational attainment, but we do know that there is a minimal correlation between per pupil spending and educational outcomes. Countries that spend much less per pupil than us, whose infrastructure is on average much less posh than ours, have higher levels of educational attainment. Great Britain is an example. Now, let me ask you this. How does a single mother get her children to study. Certainly, having a loving and respected husband in the house would be a good place to start. But, to admit that would be “judgemental.” We can’t have that. Furthermore, many a Democratic Governor has had opportunity to right the wrongs of the Richmond system, not to mention Richmond’s mayors for the last 40 years. Perhaps, that has something to do with strangulating bureaucracies, and inflexible Teacher’s Unions. Many States have tax systems that level out per pupil spending from school district to school district. So the traditional Liberal approach, to spray more money at everything, and hope that some of it does some good, has not worked. To imagine a hypothetical and alternative dream scenario in which the Richmond school system, by the snapping of one’s fingers, is suddently transformed into an “equal” quality system reminds me of the unproductive BS sessions I had in my youth. There is always someone, or some group out there, the Utopians, who think they are smarter, or better yet, that Government employees are smarter than their predecessors and everyone else, and that they are going to be able to transform the system so as to be able to account for all variables, of which culture, the biggest, is only one. Good luck with that BS, Mr RB. I would suggest Mr RB, with all due respect, that you start with a search of the literature on the effect of culture on education in general, as well as on levels of educational attainment in particular.

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