The University of California, Davis has become the latest school rocked by a public debate over cultural appropriation after students complained the student government’s rental of sumo suits was an act of anti-Asian racism that called for special sensitivity training.
The Associated Students, University of California, David (ACUSD) put on a block party Feb. 25 as part of a wider Student Appreciation Week celebration. As part of the festivities, organizers put on an activity where students could put on padded sumo fat suits and wrestle with one another.
It might all have seemed like fun and games, but an offended student fired off a complaint to the organization, describing the history of sumo wrestling and how it could be offensive to the Japanese to use the sport as a party game.
Three days after the party, ACUSD’s top officers posted an apology on Facebook.
“We’d like to apologize for any harm the ‘Sumo Suit’ may have caused you all,” the apology said. “We are thankful to the student who courageously brought this issue to our attention … This was an egregious oversight and it will hopefully not happen in the future.
But not everybody thinks that apology is enough.
“My overall impression is that this conversation is in itself an expression of white supremacist anti-Asian structural racism,” Ph.D student Scott Tsuchitani complained in an email to The California Aggie. “It is pitiful that the ASUCD would pathologize the so-called victims as in need of treatment instead of reflecting more deeply on what is needed to address ASUCD’s own failure in this situation … From my limited perspective, I would suggest that the foremost need for treatment might well be for cultural competency training for ASUCD itself.”
Another student, Phil Jones, quipped that as a “Heavy-American” he was offended by the “caricaturing” of a fat-people sport and deserved reparations. While Jones’ comment was initially reported as serious by some outlets, he turned out to be joking.
Sumo suits aren’t the only way UC Davis students have been triggered lately. Just one day after apologizing for the sumo snafu, ACUSD leadership put out a statement warning students about “anti-choice” demonstrators, and instructed students where they could go for a safe space if they were at all triggered by encountering protesters they disagreed with.
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