UMass Amherst: Jokes About Harambe Are Racist

The students at a Massachusetts university have been threatened with legal action after jokes about Harambe, the silver-backed gorilla, appeared in its residence hall.

Jokes about Harambe are actually racist attacks on African-Americans, said the residential advisers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

After tributes to Harambe — the silver-backed gorilla which was shot dead at the Cincinatti zoo to protect a child that fell into its enclosure — made their appearance on a whiteboard in a residence hall, UMass’s residential advisers, identified as only Colleen and Ryan, decided to put a stop to them.

In an email message posted in Monday, the RAs warned that any jokes pertaining to the deceased gorilla will be perceived as hate speech directed towards the black community at the university.


Twitter, UCFSports

The warning was issued because of the fact UMass has a special affinity housing community for African-Americans, incidentally named as Harambee, which in Swahili means “the point where people pull together.” Because of the coincidences in the two names, Colleen and Ryan have deemed the jokes offensive since, according to them, they “misrepresent the positive connotation” of the affinity hall.

“[Harambe comments] are not only derogatory but also micro-aggressions to some UMass Students,” they wrote in the email. “Any negative remarks regarding ‘Harambe’ will be seen as a direct attack to our campus’s African American community.”



Twitter, Carlos Garcia

Apart from warning students against microaggression against people of color, the RAs also claim the “D**** Out For Harambe” meme, which was created in wake of the gorilla’s death, actually referred to a form of sexual abuse that may violate federal law.

“Using popularizes [sic] phrases/hashtags which encourage the exposition of body parts runs the risk of being reported as a Title IX incident,” the message said, referring to the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools receiving federal money. “These are sexual assault incidences that not only get reported to Community Standards, but also to the Dean of Students. Needless to say, it is a very serious incident — especially for a first year student!”

The message also advises students to be on the lookout for the offensive jokes and report the people who are making it.

However, it seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. Jarod Sasdi, a UMass student who posted the announcement on his Twitter page, thought the jokes were funny and has no thoughts of stopping.

“Absolutely not, we will stand by our friend no matter the consequences,” said Sasdi adding “I think their [the RAs’] lack of knowledge of Harambe may have clouded their judgement.”

“I do kind of think they went way too far with the policy of banning it out right,” UMass freshman Vinny Pietroaolo said.

The university spokesman Ed Blaguszewski however defended the decisions of the advisers.

“It was really sort of an educational moment that they were trying to share, that’s all. There was no censorship involved. It was a matter of hey, there is a group that’s been for her for a long time that’s our fellow students, and there can be misunderstandings,” he said.

Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters

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