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Gay Rights Group Apologizes for ‘Asian’ Fundraiser

A gay rights group in Sacramento has apologized for offending Asians at its recent Asian-themed fundraiser.

On October 17, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center held a Red Dress Party at Sacramento’s Badlands club. The events and and theme upset the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sacramento Coalition, which wrote a letter chastising the LGBT Center.

The letter, via the Sacramento Bee, read, in part:

The theme and decor of the Red Dress Party were disturbing and offensive in their homogenization of East Asian cultures, perpetuation of inaccurate Western stereotypes that have been used to demean and discriminate against API persons, and cultural appropriation of sacred symbols that were stripped of their meaning and used for amusement rather than furthering a greater understanding of our cultures. The event’s advertisements, one with an Asian man who speaks in broken English, and another with a western-appearing man in a kimono, were at best insensitive.

Furthermore, the theme of the party was clearly “oriental” (as opposed to Asian) inspired, as reflected in the objects that comprised the décor: dragons, lanterns, and fans. Guests clearly took these images to heart, as geishas and other yellow-face inspired costumes were shared online.

Swati Rao, a member of the Asian-Pacific Islander group, told the Bee that the clothing worn at the event were a “mishmash and homogenization of Asian cultures. They were wearing them in a way that wasn’t demonstrating the beauty, but to be an object of amusement.”

On Wednesday, the LGBT Center responded with a letter on its website, asking for forgiveness “for the LGBT Center’s insensitivity toward Asian Pacific Islander community members in using Asian themes and symbols for the Red Dress Party. We take full responsibility for the unintended offensive message it conveyed. We strive to be a leader in promoting equality for all, but we can and will do better. This is a learning experience for us and we hope to use this opportunity to increase our understanding and competency.”

The Community Center wrote on Facebook that almost $25,000 was raised at the event, noting that its Community Resources Program “connects 3700 people per year to LGBT-affirming supportive resources,” among other services.

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