Culture

At U Mass, Harambe Jokes Now Considered Racist Attacks and ‘Sexual Assault Incidences’

Harambe (Cincinnati Zoo/Handout/Reuters)

Resident assistants at the University of Massachusetts have warned students “any negative remarks regarding ‘Harambe’ will be seen as a direct attack to our campus’s African American community.”

The strict no-Harambe policy was posted by two of the school’s RAs, “Ryan and Colleen,” and a picture of it was leaked by a student on Twitter.

According to the statement, Ryan and Colleen had noticed students were writing things about “Harambe” on some whiteboards around campus, and felt that they had to put a stop to it immediately, because “Harambe” is the name of the school’s African American residential community:

These comments are not only derogatory, but also micro-aggressions (sic) to some UMass Students (sic). Similar to RAPs (Residential Academic Programs), UMass also offers “Defined Residential Communities” (or DRPs), in which groups of students sharing similar heritages, ethnicities, and/or identities are able to live together.

We offer a DRP focusing on African-American heritage, and it is called the ”Harambe” floor. “Harambe” is actually a Swahili word, which stands for “the point where people pull together.” It has very positive connotations, but current social media has been misrepresenting it. The floor has been in existence for many years, so any negative remarks regarding “Harambe” will be seen as a direct attack on our campus’s African-American community.

Ryan and Colleen didn’t give any direct examples of what the “negative remarks regarding Harambe” that were posted on the floor were. However, using context clues — a skill that Ryan and Colleen seem to not have learned in elementary school along with the rest of us — it pretty clearly would refers to any of the gorilla-related phrases that people have been using to make memes.

Now, to be fair, almost any of these phrases would certainly be seen as “negative” if they were referring to the African-American residential community on campus. Hell, even a simple “R.I.P. Harambe” could be considered gravely offensive, because according to Ryan and Colleen’s interpretation – which suggests that anything about the dead gorilla “Harambe” relates to the residential community “Harambe” – anyone writing  “R.I.P. Harambe could be assumed to have really meant “R.I.P. to the African American residential community.”

Now, obviously, that statement would, indeed, qualify as “a direct attack” on a community. But here’s the thing, Ryan and Colleen: Literally no one who is writing “Harambe” on a whiteboard is referring to that community, and literally no one seeing “Harambe” on a whiteboard would actually think that they were. You can’t just arbitrarily decide that something “will be seen” in a way that no one is going to see it. I mean, seriously, “a direct attack”? In my understanding, “a direct attack” on a community has to do with someone, oh, directly attacking a community – and not someone making a statement or joke about a completely unrelated dead gorilla. 

#share#In addition to memes that say “R.I.P. Harambe,” the phrase and hashtag “d**** out for Harambe” has also become popular since the gorilla’s death. This phrase is, of course, a joke. After all, to my knowledge, there have been no reports of innocent people being traumatized by flashers who are exposing themselves in the name of Harambe because of this hashtag.

But Ryan and Colleen don’t see it this way. No, these two buckets of fun have decided that uses of this phrase are not jokes, but “sexual assault incidences:”

“To be very clear: using . . . phrases/hashtags which encourage the exposition of body parts runs the risk of being reported as a Title IX incident,” the policy states. “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!”

Sorry, but, no. Saying or writing “d**** out for Harambe” is not “a very serious incident.” In fact, it is actually the opposite of “a very serious incident” — which is, of course, something that is called “a joke.”

Unfortunately, however, the concept of “a joke” seems to be lost on Ryan and Colleen. Maybe they were teaching it in school the same day they were teaching about “context clues,” and so that’s why they don’t seem to understand the concept of either one.

#related#But probably not. The more likely explanation is, as time passes on, we are living more and more in a Ryan-and-Colleen culture, where nothing can be seen as “just a joke.” Things that used to be seen as simply “rude” or “crude” are now considered “sexual assault incidences.” People, particularly people on college campuses, are encouraged to find ways to be offended at everything around them, in order to prove how much smarter and more culturally conscious they are than everyone around them.

But do you know what, Ryan and Colleen? I, for one, am not impressed. And do you know what else? I don’t think Harambe would be either . . . may he rest in peace.

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