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Racism in the U of C memes

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"Not sure if electrical engineering class . . . or Chang family reunion."

"Forced to take English this quarter . . . Take 6 math classes to boost gpa." (Next to a photo of an Asian student.)

"Why are my marks below average? Asians." (Next to a photo of a white man.)

As you can see from the quotations above, the "University of Calgary Memes" page on Facebook is an online community filled to the brim with a certain type of hilarity. Some of it is racist, though most of it is not. But, let's leave that aside for just a moment. Let's begin instead with ignorance about how social media works.

The first meme was posted by "Bee King," the second by "Devon Blake" and the third by "Majid Theking." Now, I am not sure if those are real names, but I do know that Danny Pochapsky and Romeo Lehman are.

According to Facebook, Romeo Lehman is a student at the Haskayne School of Business at the U of C, and on Oct. 4, 2011, he added "President at the International Relations club" to his work profile. We can guess that he is a real person because Google tells us that he was a "Peer Mentor" for Ms. L. Bryce's Communications Studies 363 lecture in the winter 2010 semester. At the same time, Facebook tells us that he thought the "Why are my marks below average? Asians" meme was hilarious enough to share on his own wall on Feb. 9, 2012, shortly after it was posted on the U of C Memes page.

Danny Pochapsky is even more revealing. According to the June 28, 2011 edition of the Didsbury Review, Daniel Pochapsky was the 2011 Valedictorian at Didsbury High School who "took in the most medallions . . . for math, pure math, biology, chemistry and social studies." Google tells us that Pochapsky won a 2011 Mountain View Credit Union scholarship valued at $1,500, and Facebook tells us the he is a Schulich School of Engineering student who expects to graduate from the U of C in 2015 and who likes Taylor Swift, Archie Comics, Soul Plane, "drifting cars" and "shooting stuff."

He also thinks that the "Not sure if electrical engineering class . . . or Chang family reunion" meme posted by Bee King is "Brilliant." Or, so he said on Sunday Feb. 12, 2012 soon after the meme was posted.

Now, maybe Danny Pochapsky and Romeo Lehman (and all the others who "like" or approvingly comment on these memes) are not racist at all. Maybe Danny Pochapsky is engaged to a girl (or boy) from an Asian-Canadian family, maybe he loves Bruce Lee movies and listens to Nujabes records, and maybe he went door-to-door collecting donations for Tsunami victims in 2004.

Or, maybe not.

Someone who actually knows Pochapsky might be able to place his Facebook comments on the "Chang family" meme into a proper context and to weigh it against a history of words and actions, but no one (aside from possibly his 248 Facebook friends) actually knows Danny Pochapsky. So, we cannot tell if he's a jokester or a bigoted asshole. All we know is what the internet tells us, and neither Danny, Romeo, Bee King, Majid Theking, or Devon Blake come out looking very good.

A friend of mine happens to be an Asian-Canadian U of C graduate who has sat on a number of hiring boards in his day.

He put it like this: "It's refreshing that University of Calgary students are willing to display their racist and sexist views so openly, and to 'like' such views using their real names. Before, potential employers had to infer which University of Calgary graduates lacked the maturity or skills to thrive in the global context, but now they can just collect their names directly."

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Comments

Thusissostupid. Allofthepicturesandcommentsaremetasajokeandfnothingelse. Itsfunnyandthatisit. Itdoesnthavetodowithracismitsjustfunn. Uptightpeoplearewhomakeitracis, peopleneedtochillanjustembracehowfunnythepicturesareandlaugh.

While I agree that perpetuating stereotypes for the sake of humour is both funny and has negative effects, what seems to be the main argument of this article is that people shouldn\'t make these statements with their public names. Calling out the original posters and ending this opinions piece with the semi-threat of collecting these names implies that posters should make such memes or their opinions or what have you privately. This is a problem.

At least in this current public way the humour (whether propagating racism or not) is putting the ideologies out in the open, where we can discuss them. Only when such anxieties about racism are private do they become actual racism rather than just humour based on stereotypes.

Lastly, let\'s not forget that stereotypes are based on fact.

This is the dumbest article I\'ve read all day. I can just tell it was written by somebody who has no life outside of school/work, and just sits at home seething all day at people in the \'cool crowd\'

Maybe if you had the social skills to talk to other people around you, you wouldn\'t have to resort to absurd conjectures to describe how memes work.

And what\'s the point of researching these people and posting all of their information online? How does that improve the article in any way? It makes you look immature and, for lack of a better word, retarded.

You pull something like this again, and I\'m going to make sure the first thing that comes up when you search \"Kris Kotarksi\" on Google is a picture of you supervising a dogfight between two pitbulls.

\"Itsfunnyandthatisit\"

It\'s really not. It\'s 3-year-old recycled garbage from 4chan and Reddit.

\"seething all day at people in the \'cool crowd\'\"

Indeed. Everyone knows only the most alpha of badasses post pictures of text over overused images on the internet. Ladies.

Sorry Voldemort - Mr. Kotarski is right. These memes are racist, and the students posting them are foolish thinking that it\'s without consequence. If you actually did google him, you\'d see he was an established author and journalist, not some \'nerd\' at home \"seething at the cool crowd\". You\'ll grow up eventually, kid.

In the hypersensitive, politically correct world of university media and student affairs this might seem like a big deal.

But as you lil\' ideological hipsters enter the real world, you\'ll discover that it\'s okay to chuckle at stuff like this. It\'s not a hate crime, it\'s a light-hearted expression of legitimate observations.

Dear above commenters:

This discussion originated from *alumni* being perturbed over the moronic UofC Memes album, not Gauntlet \"hipsters.\"

Frankly, this is just another instance in the long line incidents that makes me embarrassed to call the UofC my alma mater.

The meme page is a light-hearted joke and nothing more. It is not meant to attack or demean any specific group (since as you can see by actually looking at the page, asians are not the sole topic of the memes).

Get over it. Going on the defensive and publicly outing people through the school newspaper is arguably much worse than using a website like Facebook. Learn how to take a joke.

Do you folks have a dictionary there? If so, you should really look up the words: \"pretentious\" and \"self-righteous\". Just because something is written in your little newspaper doesn\'t mean that it should be afforded a greater freedom of speech than a joke told online. If you\'re the editor of the school newspaper and a journalism major, and you still haven\'t figured out that basic tenant, I hope your parents are planning on going up to that school and demanding a refund.

I completely agree with the assertion that one should be VERY careful of what they write about other people, cultures and institutions.. especially, publicly. It is much needed for us not to be ignorant of the reality. And that is exactly why these comments are not as offensive as they are being made out to be. \"Ignorance\" lies in the fact that Asians are just people from China, Korea and Japan. Just like ignoring the fact that they are being acknowledge for their sharp brain in maths and sciences in these memes. So what if their second language isn\'t their forte, but they make up for it with their talent in much tougher courses.
Also, one needs to be even more careful before making a judgement about a person with just one comment he has made against all his other achievements.
I am an Indian, since you\'d need specifications, I am East Indian. I know what racism is and these memes are not racist. The writer of this article freely decided to write everything about these people who made the specific posts or commented them or shared them for they found it funny. But now these very people are going to be judged for years to come where this all was going to be forgotten in some days. Being offended is not wrong, but not having the patience to understand and react in a much more mature way than ranting out, making judgments YOURSELF... that\'s definitely wrong.
Practice what you preach.
AND if we are going to bring along employers on giving comments on sexism,racism etc, then my question is this \"why are women paid less than men even when on they hold same post?\"
Don\'t go blabbering about racism and how hurtful it is, unless you have been at the brunt of it.

Are you kidding me? So there are a lot of Asians in engineering. Why does this automatically have to be racist, and not just a light-hearted observation? If there are a lot of Asians in engineering then good for them, they\'re smart. I\'d die in engineering.

There are a lot of women in psychology, and especially in nursing. As a matter of fact, I saw a meme about that too (something about a bunch of hotdogs in engineering and tacos in nursing...). Is that sexist? No, it\'s a funny observation. Take a chill pill, and what\'s with specifically naming people connected with these memes? Not cool at all, get a life.

@eva and others:

If these students\' behaviours were appropriate, then what is the objection to attaching names to said behaviours?

@Anonymous Coward
People are mad that names are being used in the article because, appropriate or not, they are being pointed out in a negative light for doing what they did on the facebook page which is really quite defamatory for something that could be seen as trivial by some.

1. You had to seek out the page that contained \"memes\" in its group name.
2. You know (or at least, should have known) that memes often use racial stereotypes for comedy.
3. You were surprised when UofC memes contained those same racial stereotypes.

... Really? Not to mention the fact that those racial stereotypes are so often simply used sarcastically.

Kris Kotarski,
So you think Russell Peters is racist? Cmon! Have a sense of humor.

The line between what is racist can be thin but in this case, Kotarski is making the point that there IS NO CONTEXT for these jokes so we do not know if the author or the people who like these images are racist. That is the whole point. Hence people should be careful what they write online.

Peter Russell sometimes crosses the line too but generally he is laughing with everyone, not AT a specific group. He makes fun of himself as well as others.

These jokes relating to Asians on campus are also within a larger context of racism towards Asians on Campus and in Canada in general.

Kotarski is not the only one offended by this joke, many friends of varied background also took offense.

...Is it legal to publish someone\'s name without their permission?

@ Poster 18

There is context if you\'re a U of C student though, THAT is the whole point of the meme page. To make light-hearted observations about the goings-on around campus.

You don\'t see hordes of nursing students being outraged about being portrayed as a \'taco party\', and why not? Isn\'t that blatantly sexist? Oh yeah, because nobody cares.

What is the immense amount of personal information for? especially for Danny? how is his scholorship values and academic awards in high school relevant to this article? im not sure... anyways. I think this was rediculous and a waste of time to read. Somebody was just on facebook and probly FINALLY found something they could twist around and make an anti-racism article out of it. Nonetheless we must be careful what we write and post, but attacking something this minor seems overboard.

First off, I would like to make the point that by calling people out by name has potentially slandered them for the remainder of their lifetime. Danny is a close friend of mine, the kind that would do almost anything for a friend. The fact that he, and multiple others have been singled out is atrocious. This type of negative publicity could destroy the futures of those who were named in this article due to the sole fact that the author does not see the humor in these observations. Another point that must be made is that this article made it through editing. Why weren\'t the names of those involved taken out? The editors of the Gauntlet are awful for allowing this to go through and ruin the futures of students at their university.

Quite possibly the biggest waste of my time to date.

Katarski, all you have done with this article; is ensured that no reasonable employer, who comes across this issue of a sparely read campus news paper, will ever hire YOU.

Your complete lack of forethough, insight, humor and Intellect make you a hack and a pathetic excuse for a writer (but that\'s obvious, as you still don\'t have a full-time job, I googled you too)

I have no worries about the young men you blatantly slandered in your article, they will surely find jobs as they sound like fine students. I\'m sure I would hire them.

I\'m certain as you have not replied to any of the comments pointing out the many flaws in your embarrassing article, you have no retort. I\'m sure you\'d love to take it back, but even if they print a retraction, the damage is done, its over bud.


F. Last, I googled Kotarski too, and it turns out he\'s a Herald Columnist and not an unemployed bum as you suggest. MYTH BUSTED.
Also, to Anon. Eng. student, the article never called Danny a racist, it simply pointed out that Danny, who has a good record, also happens to post things that could quite easily be construed as racism by a future employer, and that he ought to reconsider his actions, which is quite, quite far from libel or slander. Why would you attack the author and editors for a mistake made by your friend?

\"maybe he loves Bruce Lee movies and listens to Nujabes records\"

That sounds kinda racist

It\'s only slander or defamation if it isn\'t true – and you would be surprised how many former alum read this newspaper and know how to find a facebook meme page. Careful what you post is the lesson here.

This type of article makes me embarrased to call U of C my home. Kotarski should be ashamed of the article he wrote.

This article almost seems like borderline defamation. The best part is how the author goes to great lengths to not explicitly call any of these students racist, and yet the headline screams \"Racism in the U of C Memes\".

It\'s also quite poorly written, as the main point of the article (I\'m assuming it\'s \"be careful what you put online\", but it\'s hard to tell) is buried underneath the unnecessary publication several students personal information. I\'ll be interested to hear why the editors of the Gauntlet would include such a puzzling article in their paper.

Chill out it\'s a joke. Live a little u . This is the stupidest article I have ever read. Maybe u should spend more time studying and not wasting everyone\'s time .

What a waste of space on the internet..

Going on to insult the posters after calling them out by name by saying \"we cannot tell if he\'s a jokester or a bigoted asshole\" makes you even less of a person.

I am surprised that the UofC gauntlet would publish an article where the author directly slanders other students\' names.

Please tell your editors to step it up a notch, this was such an immature post and its tattle tale rant does not deserve to be published anywhere.

This article misses the mark.
The author has prematurely drawn conclusions of bigotry from a single comment. Let us not kid ourselves, we all relate to, and understand, racial stereotypes. The very author of this piece probably cracks the occasional stereotypical joke behind closed doors. Would this make him/her a bigot? NO!
The problem with racism and bigotry is that we are all too busy pretending we do not subscribe to these stereotypes. Ask any person in Western society if they are racist, the response will more often than not be \"No, of course I\'m not racist\".
Racism still continues to be an issue in society, and instead of talking about it, we are too busy pretending it is not there.
These stereotypical memes are funny and open the door for light hearted discussion. They do not foster racist or bigoted remarks. What does foster racism is the fact that we are not willing to openly talk about race...

This is not just really unprofessional, it\'s an embarssment to the entire student body. What were you thinking? Did you really have nothing better to write about? This just looks like you\'re using the paper to attack and embarass people. At best, you\'re calling people out for being a little bit insensitive over the internet. So what if some of the memes were mildly offensive or racist? Do you not watch any tv? Grow up. I\'m disgusted.

\"Kris has written a column for the Calgary Herald since 2003 focusing on Canadian politics, HUMAN RIGHTS-\" wait, hold up, are you serious? I think you might want to go edit your own Calgary Herald biographical info page right now if you think that calling out a few U of C students and exposing some of their personal info is not in any way a form of human rights infringement. Regardless of what the memes in questions may have said and what their intentions were, this goes far above and beyond any logical and proportional reaction.

Anonymous cowherd, herder

Sounds like you\'re Kirs Kotarski, and like FLast pointed out you\'re much too embarrassed to stand up for your own article so you have a friend do it, or more likely, for lack of them, you do it yourself under an anonymous name.

I don\'t see how this person is so wrong for printing names of people. Journalists talk about other people by name all the time, criminals, politicians, random people who happened to be involved in an event. This is the real world, and you are accountable for your actions.

Gauntlet policy is that contributers and members of the editorial board are not allowed to comment on any stories published during their participation

I wonder if he looked at the number of people who have \'liked\' the memes that are Asian or any other ethnicity that racism is supposedly taking place against? The U of C memes page is not a group for the KKK, it\'s a collection of observations of irony and jokes that U of C students would understand. Many of which have nothing to do with race.