Joetopia

Why we need to give Cal Poly’s Trump-loving, hillbilly-dressing frat boys a break

An end-of-year photo depicting culturally and ethnically insensitive costumes led to Cal Poly fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho receiving some online criticism, prompting the frat to apologize for the photo on Thursday.
An end-of-year photo depicting culturally and ethnically insensitive costumes led to Cal Poly fraternity Alpha Gamma Rho receiving some online criticism, prompting the frat to apologize for the photo on Thursday.

I’m not one to jump to the defense of frat boys.

I’m especially not one to jump to the defense of frat boys dressed in dumb costumes and posing with a Trump flag.

So when I saw the pic of the fellows at Alpha Gamma Rho in what amounts to their 2017 yearbook photo, my first inclination was to lick my chops like the dude in the tiger suit on the right.

This is red meat, these bunch of jokers decked out in a weird assembly that includes gun-toting hillbillies, a guy flexing in a satin robe, a dapper fellow in a powder blue pimp suit and at least two dudes in American flag parachute pants straight out of the martial arts class from “Napoleon Dynamite,” which is particular fitting for a bunch of Greek bros because, “At Rex Kwan Do, we use the buddy system. No more flying solo. You need somebody watching your back — AT ALL TIMES.”

In the past, I’ve taken on Cal Poly frats for their themed parties (remember Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos?), their hazing, their suspensions, their drinking policies and other related examples of their boys-behaving-badly schtick.

When this photo started getting shared on social media along with accusations of the costumes’ insensitivity, I’ll admit I was ready to hook a claw into them again — that is, until I really looked at the photo closely.

What I saw was a bunch of college students from a conservative agriculture fraternity doing what college students do: acting goofy.

What I didn’t see, despite the accusations they were mocking minorities, was anything really offensive, even as the frat quickly apologized for having “appropriated cultural and ethnic identities of our peers,” in the overwrought manner that might occur when you’re already on suspension and you have the administration’s thumb on your neck.

Actually, most of the cultural and ethnic identities they appropriated here were very likely their own: Duck Dynasty and Trump, guns and boots, booze and cowboy hats.

Yes, there’s a sombrero on someone’s head. So what? They sell them all over Mexico as souvenirs.

Yes, there’s a guy on a flag pole wearing what looks like a feathered Native American headdress. But then, someone posted a higher-resolution closeup and we realized it’s a colorful ski cap from Disneyland. You find these things on the heads of snowboarders at Mammoth, not on the reservation.

Yes, there’s that guy in the blue suit with the ridiculous matching fedora. Okay, I’ll give you that.

What else is there? A guy in a chicken hat. And one in a Hawaiian shirt. Gasp! He’s appropriating the island culture!

There’s a guy in a rainbow wig. He must be appropriating the culture of those troll dolls.

Another one looks like he’s wearing a flight suit. And there’s a guy in a Superman shirt. No offense there. Then there’s the guy who looks like he’s squeezed into a sexy Christmas elf dress, but I think I’d only be offended if I could see his bottom half.

What’s blocking him? The Trump flag, and if you want to rate what personally offends me most in this photo, it’s that. But if I’m going to get upset about Trump signs, I’ll hardly be able to function in today’s America.

Shoot, I have one of those very same flags myself, courtesy of a kind reader who is four months into a four-year effort to convert me into a fan by showering me with “Make America Great Again” knickknacks and headwear.

So as much as I want to run a good old-fashioned frat beatdown, I can’t.

There will be another time for that. You know there will.

As sure as the sun will rise, a Cal Poly frat will do something legitimately stupid, legitimately worthy of scorn, legitimately worthy of their expulsion.

Just not this day.

Joe Tarica: 805-781-7911, @joetarica

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