UMich Fraternity Cancels Ancient Egypt Themed Party Following ‘Cultural Appropriation’ Complaints

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Ian Miles Cheong Contributor
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A fraternity at the University of Michigan was forced to cancel a Nile-themed party following complaints from student activists over “cultural appropriation.”

UMich’s chapter of Delta Sigma Phi was forced to terminate its plans to host the themed party — which was set for September 1’s Welcome Week — after the president of the Egyptian Student Association, Yasmeen Afifi, condemned the party in a series of expletive-filled tweets. Afifi condemned “whites” for “cultural appropriation” and “orientalism.”

The College Fix reported Wednesday that the party, which asked students to “honor our Egyptian roots and join us on the night of September 1st to celebrate our newly built pyramid,” suggested that frat members partake in the event as mummies, Cleopatra, or King Tut.

“It doesn’t matter to us,” the notice wrote.

Beyond her angry tweets announcing that “these whites don’t know what they got themselves into,” Afifi says that since the party was being held by a white-majority fraternity, “the privilege within this appropriation is even larger” in an extended statement.

“Not only are these stereotypes extremely offensive as a whole, it is more saddening to see students from the top public university in the United States engaging in these stereotypes. As an actual Egyptian, my roots are more than a costume or a lame party,” she wrote on Facebook. “My culture will not be appropriated for your entertainment.”

Despite her Muslim background, Afifi claims that images of Ancient Egypt are relevant to her. She believes that white archaeologists and historians invaded and erased her culture’s “African roots.”

Afifi’s statement that the ancient Egyptians had African roots has no scientific basis. Recent genetic analysis by the Max Planck Institute found that Egyptian royalty were more closely related to Neolithic Levantine, Anatolian, and European populations.

In response to her complaints, the executive board at Delta Sigma Phi in UMich was forced to issue an apology.

“We sincerely apologize to anyone who was hurt by the theme choice. We have learned our lesson and will take more precaution in the future when deciding themes for events,” they stated. “We pride ourselves on being a diverse social fraternity with members from a wide variety of religions, races, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and other identities. It would never be the intention to make anyone from any group…feel unwelcome or uncomfortable.”

Afifi told the Fix that she wants the fraternity to know why their party was “offensive.” When asked if she considered wearing togas (an appropriation of Roman and Greek cultures, as often practiced by fraternities) to be offensive, she declined to answer.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.