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Chi Omega “Trap Queen” Photo Sparks Controversy Over Race

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Chi Omega House at University of Florida
Chi Omega House at University of Florida. Ariella Phillips / WUFT News

A photo featuring members of the Chi Omega sorority at University of Florida that was supposed to be about sisterhood has raised concerns about perpetuating harmful stereotypes instead.

The photo shows four white women with their arms crossed wearing long black T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Trap Queen.” 

The words are a reference to the title of a song by New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap. The song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this summer, according to the magazine.

“Trap” refers to a “trap house,” which is where drugs are made and sold, often in impoverished neighborhoods, said Veleashia Smith, the director of UF’s Institute of Black Culture.

“A trap queen is not something you want to be excited about,” she said.

The women in the photo, the president, vice president, and adviser of the Chi Omega chapter at UF did not respond to requests for comment. The national Chi Omega organization and the UF Panhellenic Council also declined to comment.

However, UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said in a statement that the university is aware of the photo, and that Student Activities and Involvement along with the Bias Education and Response Team have reached out to the sorority.

“While we have learned there was no intention to offend anyone, we are using this opportunity as a teaching moment. It’s important to foster a campus environment welcoming for all,” Sikes said.

Smith, who said there are plans to bring the Black Student Union and the sorority together to talk, said that a woman who runs a drug house shouldn’t be glorified because of the offensive connotations to black culture.

Bria Wood, a 21-year-old journalism major and member of the Black Student Union, said she had conflicting feelings about the photo. At first glance, she thought something was not quite right.

Initially, she noticed the shirts, then the pose. She said she wondered what point the women were trying to make.

Wood is a member of UF’s Delta Sigma Theta, a nationally recognized African-American sorority. She first learned about the photo in a group text message with her friends.

Reactions were mixed, she said.

While the photo isn’t blatantly racist, their outfits and poses aren’t something that should be representative of a student organization, she said.

“In a normal setting, those girls wouldn’t go around their parents dressed like a trap queen,” Wood said.

College is a place to broaden horizons and learn about being mindful of different things that may or may not offend, she said.

This is not the first time a Chi Omega chapter has been in trouble for questionably racist material. In August 2014, two members from the University of Alabama chapter were removed from the organization following a Snapchat photo with a racial slur.

Michael Leslie, a professor of intercultural communication at UF, said he hopes the social disapproval of the photo could lead to a learning opportunity in today’s multicultural society.

He said he’s glad people are paying attention and speaking up when they see something that raises questions.

But Leslie also said the photo, while trivial, could have the negative effect of reinforcing black stereotypes.

“You can’t control people’s behavior,” he said.

 

About Ariella Phillips

Ariella is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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6 comments

  1. This article is beyond ignorant. It seems that there is now an obligation to attempt to portray young men and women as racist. To assume “trap queen” has anything to do with race is inherently racist. This type of “journalism” is pathetic to say the least. Please stop attempting to publicly shame people for more traffic to your article.

    • The use of “trap queen” and other slang words and phrases is an issue of
      race when you have a bunch of white girls taking it out of context and using it in a way that ignores its original cultural significance. So no, this is not an ignorant article, and no one is trying to publicly shame anyone. This is a conversation about race and power dynamics that a sorority is unknowingly reinforcing, and that’s the larger issue at hand.

  2. this article and this “issue” are ridiculous. trap is a genre of music. there was no offense intended and there should’ve been none taken. ever heard of dressing up in a costume just for the fun of it? this overly pc culture is ruining the world

    • student 2 student

      And it’s comments like these that “UF students 1, 2 and 3” have made that make issues such as this bigger than what really are. Racism is still prevalent today and in most cases, hidden in plane sight. If the shoe was on the other foot; which it never has been and probably will never be, you wouldn’t feel as though “this overly (pc) culture is ruining the world”. It’s because of the Black/Brown/Afro American people and forefathers that many of your resources today are possible. If it’s ignorant to have an opinion about something you’ve been dealing with for centuries, then I guess you all would be placed in that category as well; because for centuries you’ve felt like the world revolves around you and and blacks owe you something when in fact, you’re forever in our debt. Please, just as you’ve posted your opinion concerning this issue, whomever that felt however about what has taken place has an opinion as well. If it’s not racism, then don’t expound and make it out to be with your racial slurs posted here.

  3. Let’s all get offended now…What’s wrong with people these days? If you don’t like it then move along and mind your own!

  4. It’s very easy to get offended when you’re trying to get offended. As fun as it can be to play the victim, these people need to grow up.

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