The Sacramento LGBT Center has apologized after members of the local Asian and Pacific Islander community said that a recent fundraiser for gay health causes used culturally insensitive themes and decorations.
The Red Dress Party, held Oct. 17 at midtown Sacramento’s Badlands club, caused “deep pain and alienation” to the Asian and Pacific Islander community, a coalition wrote in a letter to the Sacramento LGBT Center.
“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 letter reads.
“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,” the letter continues. “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.”
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Swati Rao, a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sacramento Coalition, the group that sought the apology, said guests were dressed in kimonos and “imitations of the traditional Chinese red dress qipao,” but that the outfits 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,” she said.
In response, the LGBT Center posted a letter on its website Wednesday, apologizing “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,” the statement read. “This is a learning experience for us and we hope to use this opportunity to increase our understanding and competency.”
Rao called the statement by the LGBT Center “a really great step in the right direction.”
“We are really glad that the center has taken responsibility for inadvertently causing offense to members of the API community,” Rao said.
The Red Dress Party was attended by 400 guests and raised nearly $25,000 for health programs at the LGBT Center, according to the event’s Facebook page.