UMass RAs: Harambe Jokes Are Racist ‘Micro-Aggressions’

ashley.rae | September 6, 2016


Resident assistants at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst are telling students that making jokes about Harambe, the gorilla who was recently killed in the Cincinnati Zoo when a toddler fell into its enclosure, are “derogatory” and constitute “micro-aggressions” against black students. The RAs are also threatening students with Title IX charges for making certain “crude” jokes about the gorilla.

A tweet posted by UMass student Jarod Sasdi shows an email from two RAs for Sycamore Hall, Colleen and Ryan, calling comments about Harambe a “micro-aggression.”

Part of the email reads:

We understand that social media has been popularizing Harambe in some crude ways, which may appear as funny to groups of people. However, these comments are not only derogatory, but also micro-agressions to some UMass Students. 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 DPR 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 a very positive connotations [sic], 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 to our campus’s African-American community.

While the UMass RAs mention one of the “Defined Residential Communities” uses the name “Harambe,” the floor is actually called “Harambee.” Therefore, the name “Harambe” is not connected to the black community on campus at all.

The email also notes referencing a certain NSFW meme about the gorilla can result in Title IX charges:

To be very clear: using popularizes phrases/hashtags which encourage the exposition of body parts runs the risk of being reported as a Title IX incident. These are sexual assault incidences that not only get reported to Community Standards, but also to the Dean of Students.

(Image source: Twitter/Jarod Sasdi)

Contrary to what Colleen and Ryan said, there appears to be no provision in Title IX that prohibits people from references memes about gorillas.