Background Collegian Ad

Student Offended by White D-Squad Performer’s Use of the N-word

Published: September 11, 2013, 11:53 pm ET

Dear Performer,

On April 19, I attended the performance of your group D-Squad at the Pier. I wasn’t planning to attend, but once there, I was impressed by your group’s talent. I was enjoying the show when you took the stage and performed a rap by Lil Wayne.

When I heard the first few curse words come out of your mouth, I wasn’t too surprised. But I was completely astounded when you dropped the n-word. And then you dropped it again. I don’t recall exactly how many times you used it, but it was more than enough to incite me. When you concluded your rap and exited the stage, I immediately confronted you on your seemingly reckless usage of this word.

First, I want to apologize for yelling at you. My anger got the best of me, and based on your reaction, I frightened you. It was inappropriate of me to ambush you and vocalize my thoughts in a brash, insensitive manner.

Second, I want to explain to you, and others like you, why using the n-word in a public performance is inappropriate. As you may or may not know, the n-word came about in the early 1900s as a pejorative with the sole intent of disenfranchising African Americans. It carries generations of institutionalized debasement, segregation and oppression.

By referring to African Americans as n-words, it perpetuated the belief that they were a lower class of human beings than whites. If there are any acceptable connotations with the word in 2013, they have been added post-factum by blacks as a meager attempt to minimize the damage the word inflicts, like a band-aid over a bullet wound.

When you used this word, you were performing in a public location, attended by over 100 audience members and with open access to anyone on campus. You do not know every person on this campus. You do not know the life experience of everyone on this campus. Therefore, you do not know how every person feels about the usage of the n-word. Just because you or even some of your black friends are okay with the lyrics doesn’t mean every black person is.

It is true that many in the black community use this word amongst themselves in their daily life as a greeting or a term of endearment. I don’t agree with any usage of the n-word, but there is a marked difference between friends casually using the word in a private setting and you screaming it into a microphone in front of a crowd. It is also true that many black artists use the word in their music; however, they use numerous inappropriate words, and we cannot make the argument that a word is acceptable simply because it has been published.

It is especially problematic that you, as a Caucasian in 21st-century America, have voluntarily chosen to use it. By choosing to sing that word, rather than pull your mic away or find a censored version of the song, you are displaying either ignorance or apathy.

You are ignorant of the suffering that can be inflicted by that evil little world, or you feel apathetic to its long and dirty history. Your choice to pick a song including that word sends a message of acceptance of the debasement of African Americans.

In closing, during my four years at the University of Richmond, I have found it to be a diverse place, but not an inclusive one. Cultural groups exist, but besides small friend clusters, there is little general intermingling outside of the classroom and the sports field.

My advice for you, performer, is to get to know others of different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, and try taking a class on cultural diversity. You will soon learn that although you have the First Amendment right to say whatever you want, fellow members of the university have the right to cultural sensitivity.

As the old adage goes: Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

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  • Tim

    The word should not be used, period. It is a profane word and it is a joke to think it can be OK for one culture and not the next. The notion that by blacks using the word to gain control over it is a farce and as using it as a term of endearment is a joke. It is a vile and derogatory word that should burn on the lips of anyone who uses it. Let it die with time. Why keep it alive in song, comedy, or everyday usage. Just my honest opinion.

  • Dotherightthing

    Eloquently stated- I completely agree with everything you outlined with one exception…. I do not find it particularly problematic that the performer is Caucasion. It is 100+% problematic no matter who the heck repeats these vile lyrics. To say otherwise is in itself racist or at best confusing…. You (probably) do not know the performer’s entire background/ life experiences/ ancestory/ genetic code either. Perhaps his family is “bi-racial” , etc…. If the truth be told, most multi-generational Americans are metaphorical “mutts” with a little of this and that by now anyway. So, I hope we stop giving a partial pass to ANYONE perpetrating the “N” word in any circumstance and start cracking down on “artists” like Lil Wayne who keep popularizing it…. PS- I hope you have sent a letter to “Lil W” too !

  • J.S.

    Your sentiments are very well-written and articulate, and I totally agree with everything you said about the “N” word. Unfortunately, your position was severely weakened when you started off by saying “I was enjoying the show when you took the stage and performed a rap by Lil Wayne.” Almost every song by Lil Wayne includes the “N” word multiple times. If you pull up a lyrics page of his songs and search for the “N” word, it will constantly pop up. In fact, it’s not unusual for the “N” word to be in the very first stanza of the song, if not the first line or word.

    So while I am genuinely impressed with your essay here, anyone who enjoys Lil Wayne (and those like him) must not be THAT offended by the “N” word, or else s/he wouldn’t listen to or buy his music.