The Washington Free Beacon published a story today about a second-year law student at Yale who is a member of two groups. One of those groups is the conservative Federalist Society and the other is the Native American Law Students Association (NALSA). Back in September, the student announced a party which would be co-hosted by both groups. His invitation was clearly designed to make the party sound like it would be fun.
“We will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc,” he wrote in a Sept. 15 email to the Native American listserv. In keeping with the theme, he said, the mixer would serve “American-themed snacks” like “Popeye’s chicken” and “apple pie.”
Almost immediately, the invite was copied and pasted onto a forum where all second-year students could see it and that’s when the criticism started rolling in.
“I guess celebrating whiteness wasn’t enough,” the president of the Black Law Students Association wrote in the forum. “Y’all had to upgrade to cosplay/black face.” She also objected to the mixer’s affiliation with the Federalist Society, which she said “has historically supported anti-Black rhetoric.”
As the Beacon points out, “trap house” has traditionally meant a drug house but for the last several years the popularity of the far-left podcast Chapo Trap House has made the term a more ironic phrase, especially on the left. The Urban Dictionary entry says that trap house is no longer code for a crack den but could used by “high school students who like to pretend they’re cool by drinking their mom’s beer together.”
In any case, just 12 hours later the student was summoned to a meeting with the associate dean and the diversity director. They claimed to have received nine complaints about his invitation, alleging both discrimination and harassment. What the administrators didn’t know is that the student recorded the entire meeting so there’s a record of what was said.
At a Sept. 16 meeting, which the student recorded and shared with the Washington Free Beacon, associate dean Ellen Cosgrove and diversity director Yaseen Eldik told the student that the word “trap” connotes crack use, hip hop, and blackface. Those “triggering associations,” Eldik said, were “compounded by the fried chicken reference,” which “is often used to undermine arguments that structural and systemic racism has contributed to racial health disparities in the U.S.”
Eldik, a former Obama White House official, went on to say that the student’s membership in the Federalist Society had “triggered” his peers.
The student was warned he needed to issue a blanket apology to students who were offended or else the situation could escalate. The escalation part wasn’t spelled out clearly but the implication was that the administrators could put something in his records that would hurt his chances at passing the bar exam. That exam includes a “character and fitness” investigation and the student was warned that his character was at issue.
Ultimately, the student chose not to send out the apology the diversity director had written for him, but he did offer to meet and talk with any student who felt offended. Later the same day the administrators sent a note to the entire second-year class condemning the “pejorative and racist language” in the invitation.
There was a follow up meeting held yesterday during which the same administrators promised there would be no harmful notes placed in the student’s file. So it looks like that may be the end of it. The Beacon story concludes by noting that at the first meeting in September, the diversity director has mentioned that, because the student was Native American “there probably isn’t as much scrutiny of you as there might be of a white person in the same position.”