Wyatt: Non-black students can easily improve Blowout atmosphere by omitting the N-word


Source: A&O

Young Thug

Louisa Wyatt, Op-Ed Contributor

Do you know how many times Rae Sremmurd uses the N-word in their songs? I don’t know either, but it’s a lot — like Django Unchained a lot.

At A&O Ball this past April, I listened to many of the white and non-black people of color next to me shout out every single N-word sang by Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi — the brothers who comprise Rae Sremmurd. If there was one word they memorized of the duo’s discography, it was “nigga.”

Non-black students sang the word more enthusiastically than any other line in the 90 or so minutes of music Rae Sremmurd performed. It’s like non-black students were waiting for the word to come up each time, like they were holding their breath, saving up energy to scream it out as loudly as possible, thinking the other 2,500 people in the crowd would drown out their one opportunity to get away with belting out a racial slur.

But white students didn’t get away with saying “nigga.” They said it in unison, amplifying each other. We — black students — looked around, trying to spot another black person in the crowd like, “Was that you?”

There was no way there were enough of us to make the screeches of “nigga” that deafening.

No way.

This Friday there will possibly be even fewer black students attending A&O Blowout due to this sort of complete disregard for the wellbeing of black students.

Do students realize their power to blindly and aggressively steal away opportunities for joy and inclusivity? Do students realize how their dismissal of our experiences, presence and safety is an act of violence? Do students realize their capacity to ruin our entire night, week, quarter or undergraduate career through exclusion?

A number of non-black students ruined my first Ball as an official member of the A&O concerts committee. A number of non-black students ruined, possibly forever, many black students’ relationships with A&O concerts.

This issue especially concerns me as the sole black female on the A&O concerts committee and one of only a handful in the organization overall.

I know of many black students who are considering passing on A&O Blowout due to the exclusivity, aggression and discomfort they have experienced at previous A&O concerts. We shouldn’t be flinching every 15 seconds from the screams of non-black people surrounding us on all sides.

This is not why I joined A&O.

I joined A&O to bring high-profile talent at historic Chicago venues to NU students for the price of a Chipotle burrito. I joined A&O to bring — a black female perspective — to an organization dominated by white and Greek-affiliated students.

This Friday, Young Thug, a black male rapper, and Kehlani, a mixed-race female R&B/pop artist, will perform at A&O Blowout. This show is intended to be an entertaining, representative and inclusive event for all Northwestern students.

So please, intelligent and seemingly woke white and non-black students: Please, please, please push your considerably less woke white and non-black friends to think critically about how they will conduct themselves this Friday. It’s not my job, nor is it any black person’s job, to tell you how to have these conversations. It’s really not my job to tell you why you need to have these conversations (even though I have already spent too much time providing you with supportive personal testimony). My experience and the experience of so many black students at these shows are valid and deserve consideration and respect. I’m hoping this op-ed will encourage you to educate yourselves and your friends.

If you’re reading this and you’re feeling singled out, frustrated and/or annoyed, confront these feelings. Imagine these thoughts racing through your mind for two and half hours at a show you were hoping to enjoy — this is the experience of many black students at A&O concerts. If you’re reading this and considering the nuances attached to saying “nigga” and the commercialization of rap and hip-hop culture, I encourage you to explore this discussion further. I am aware there are many differing opinions on this subject, but it comes down to the fact that many black students feel alienated, and we should all be working to combat this.  

A&O events are intended for everyone — not just you and your white/non-black friends. Hip-hop is essentially available for everyone. But the N-word is not for everyone, and omitting the term will not make Blowout any less enjoyable for you.

My current semester abroad renders me unavailable to call out abusers in person. No single person or community will ever have the energy to call out every non-black student at NU who decides to say “nigga.” These are your friends — you chose them; you’re stuck with them.

Make your friends better. Help me make A&O events better; this is why I joined A&O.

Louisa Wyatt is a Medill junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.