Henry Louis Gates' Bag Party
Here is Gates describing the incident on Book Notes, in an interview with Brian Lamb.
When I was at Yale, for example -- I went there in '69 and...Jfield says "that's good enough for me."
LAMB: Studying what, by the way?
GATES: American history, though I took a lot of Afro-Am courses on the side, but I was a history major. I remember the first year I was there -- the first month I was there, we had this special meeting of the Black Student Alliance to talk to the black men -- young black men from New Orleans, some of whom were very light complected. And they wanted to have something called a bag party. So, you know, what's a bag party? They wanted to put this paper bag over the door and anyone who was darker than the paper bag couldn't get into the party. So, you know, I looked at them -- I was secretary of the Black Student Alliance -- everyone from the North and everyone who had any kind of sense and was not from New Orleans said, "We've never heard of a such a thing. You guys can't do this. I mean, this is some sort of antiquated, sick relic of the past. I mean, you can't do that."
And that practice stopped, and then I later found out through black history classes that that sort of thing had been going on in New Orleans for a very long time. The point is that you can internalize your own oppression. You can take on the forms of sickness, through which oppressors try to control you, whether you're a woman or a gay person or a person of color. And our job, in part, as academics is to fight against those sort of tendencies within those respective groups. That's not sufficient reason -- I mean, reasons of self-esteem are not sufficient reasons to justify the existence of, say, women's studies or gay studies or African-American studies in the academy by any means. But that is an aftereffect of the kind of work that we do in the academy if you're in, say, ethnic studies.
Good enough for what?
No one doubted the information -- what was questioned was whether the information called for the consequences that were stated as having happened in the original Mummert sermon: that SKSM would change the name of the brown bag lunch to something else, and the unmistakable implication that this was what good people ought to do.
Now, it appears that the consequence was stated inaccurately -- that nobody took this that seriously because they still use brown bags and go to brown bag lunches throughout the GTU.
So what happened? It's all quite unclear. Under critical questioning initiated by Peacebang, who gets reviled in the process, the thing becomes misty and vague. But the surviving message is that "don't ever question the important work that the SKSM is doing."