What does Shinerama fundraising, dirty bingo, and—the latest—Sumo wrestling have in common?
They’re all activities you’d find on campus during Frosh Week?
They’re all instruments of oppression, manifesting innocently behind a guise of “harmless fun,” wreaking havoc on the consciousnesses of privileged white students.
Thank [insert name of respective deity] that we have the Alma Mater Society, the student government at Queen’s University, to tell us what we should feel guilty about. Read their two-page apology, and you’ll learn why the “SUMO Showdown,” scheduled during their food bank fundraiser, “fails to capture the deeply imbedded histories of violent and subversive oppression that a group has faced.”
And those puffy Sumo suits? “Caused feelings of hurt,” writes AMS. They were not “being safe on-campus by planning this event.” Well, the pursuit of the jovial obviously blinded these students to their own privilege. “Regrettably,” they write, “those of us who were aware of the event did not critically consider the racist meaning behind it.”
Red-faced, I admit I didn’t see the racist meaning behind it. The bun, the Mawashi, the size of the wrestler–that’s what makes Sumo intriguing and distinctive. The AMS thinks wearing these cultural garments dehumanizes the culture; I think it simply identifies it. Mike Grobe, a spokesman for Queen’s Athletics, didn’t see the controversy either. He told the National Post, “It’s the first time we’ve heard of [the racist aspects].” Queen’s Athletics uses the suits regularly at half-time shows. “They’re pink… No one’s complained.”
I didn’t think our cultural climate was so volatile that any mirth is suddenly menacing. But I guess I was wrong.
The AMS apology further reads, “The event also devalues an ancient and respected Japanese sport.” Well, amen, friends. Someone should also tell Carl Douglas, singer of “Kung Fu Fighting,” to stop devaluing that ancient and respected sport. Poke fun at any cultural traditions–but leave the sports alone.
Making a fuss over Sumo suits–does it trivialize more serious issues of oppression and racism? I’d think about it further, but it’s much easier to just let my student leaders decide for me.