The creation of Facebook has to be the greatest invention since Late Night at De La Guerra. On weekdays your “News Feed” is showered with your friends’ latest updates and event and group invitations. I was recently invited to a group that featured a disturbing event, the so-called “Gangsta Party.” I immediately chuckled at the ignorance of these students draped in jerseys, “doo-rags,” foil chains and bandanas. It was not the apparel that amused me but rather, the audacity of these students from various universities to perpetuate the stereotypes. It dawned on me that this was not such a foreign matter, because these gangsta parties occur in Isla Vista.

What does being “gangsta” mean? Unfortunately, media has sculpted the word “gangsta” to be synonymous with Black males, and a gangsta is characterized as being aggressive, violent and most importantly “flossy” – hence the “bling.” The problem here is that this is a skewed view to begin with. Secondly, it generalizes what it essentially means to be a Black man. Furthermore, this essentialism neglects to uncover the complexity that comes along with being Black, and being a man in a society that thrives off race and privilege. Movies and music have glamorized the gangsta lifestyle, but have failed to reveal the consequences of being an actual gang member.

Life as a gang member is not fun and it is nothing to celebrate. Imagine a day where you have to wear a certain color. You have to make sure that the letters and logos on your hat are acceptable in the territory you are living in. You have to be mindful of waving, moving or twisting your fingers a certain way, because it may be an opposed gang sign. Imagine having to constantly watch your back, and be mindful of where you go. All it takes is one time of failing the process, and the cost is your life, regardless if you are affiliated with a gang or not. Both men and women are murdered each day due to gang violence.

Some of you may think you are just having fun, or wonder, “Why do Blacks get offended, it’s just a joke.” Your actions are offensive because you make a mockery of the historical struggle and oppression that our ancestors faced. It is 2007, but it is this incessant oppression that we face daily, oppression that cannot be imitated simply from a costume. Your actions are offensive, because like the media, you generalize Black people. For example, you still ask the Black UCSB students that were raised in suburbs for clothes to borrow for a gangsta party. Your actions are offensive because you attempt to imitate a gang culture without being sensitive to the victims of gang violence.

So when you attend a gangsta party, are you celebrating the murders and crimes that have occurred due to gang violence? I understand that some people are not aware of the seriousness of this matter. This blindness is due the system in which we are governed. It is based upon a privilege that is not visible, or tangible. A privilege that is beneficial to the majority of the UCSB student body in particular. A privilege that clouds those minds, and makes such parties okay. A privilege that continues to divert the blame of hosting, or attending a gangsta party on the subordinated groups, rather than those really responsible for the event. If you have hosted or attended one of these parties, accept the responsibility of your actions and realize that it is not right. Be aware that you are a product of a society that has taught you to think this way. However, do not use this conditioning as a scapegoat. First, educate yourself, then your family and friends. This reconditioning includes all people of color, all people in general. Try something new. Disregard all the mundane, derogatory theme parties, and have a “privileged people party” to learn about yourselves and things that you never knew existed.