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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

African Americans Offended by Image of Sambo

To the Editor:

On the evening of Wednesday Oct. 16, 1996 posters advertising a Homecoming party sponsored by Tri-Kap fraternity were placed in various locations around campus. These posters indicated the time and location of the event and featured a picture of Jimmy Walker (as the character "JJ" from the television series "Good Times"). At the Afro-American Society General Body meeting the following day, several individuals expressed concern and offense over the image used in the poster. Many felt that the photo was completely unacceptable because the image is associated with that of a coon, buffoon or sambo, common stereotypes associated with black men in American popular culture. The image portrays black men as ignorant and child-like and has been damaging to African-American communities since its emergence in the early 1900s. In response to the commentary made, the general body voted to draft a letter expressing these concerns to Tri-Kap fraternity. Upon receiving this letter via blitzmail on Sunday night, the president and members of Tri-Kap fraternity expressed a desire to discuss and resolve the issues raised by the poster.

On Thursday evening (Oct. 24), a discussion forum regarding the situation was held in the Shabazz Hall Lounge. During this discussion, members of Tri-Kap fraternity made it clear that there was no intention to offend African-Americans or to perpetuate such a harmful stereotype, and they apologized for their mistake. Both organizations expressed concern over the lack of communication between their groups and resolved to encourage more dialogue in the hopes of avoiding such incidents in the future.

As a result of this discussion, both organizations agreed that the entire Dartmouth community should be made aware of the detrimental effects of the image on the posters and the negative stereotypes associated with it. In the hopes of educating more people about such stereotypes and harmful imagery, the Afro-American Society and Tri-Kap fraternity will host a screening & discussion of the film "Ethnic Notions" on Monday Nov. 4. We invite all members of the Dartmouth community to attend.