BY MARIE VEILLETTE
Speakers Alexander Hines, director of diversity and inclusion at Winona State University, and Marcellus Davis of Change Agent Consulting: Each One, Reach One, Teach One LLC, gave a lecture titled “The Mis-Education of the N Word” Thursday night in the CMU ballroom.
Davis opened the night with the comment, “If you think getting someone to come talk about the N word is easy, you are sadly mistaken.”
He went on to explain that the lecture for the evening would not be primarily focusing on the N word itself, but rather “white supremacy which has birthed racism.”
Davis compared racism to the movie “Contagion.” He explained, “Think of racism as a contagion, and all of us are affected. Some of us are carriers, and some of us are recipients.” He went on to add that his goal of the night was to help MSUM students “create your own collective antidote on your campus.”
Davis and Hines also talked about how the use of the N word has taken off in popular culture through music, movies and merchandise like clothing and jewelry.
The interactive lecture involved the audience through short quizzes. The speakers began by putting up a slide of pictures of 15 women of color who were influential in history. They asked the audience to name as many as they could. They did the same with a slide of 15 men. The results of the quiz proved the speakers’ point. People of color have been suppressed in the history books simply because of their color.
Davis said students “should be outraged because you’ve been deprived” of the true and full history of the United States.
From there the discussion shifted to defining race and racism. Hines explained that race has nothing to do with any biological characteristics; it is purely a “social construction.” He added, “anyone can be racist. Minorities can be racist.”
The speakers addressed the N word and the different meanings it has acquired in its history. Davis said, “The N word definition has changed from decade to decade.”
Hines and Davis addressed the most recent use of the word as a term of endearment between friends, and explained that is not a word that is only applied to and used by African Americans, but all people of color.
After explaining the 395-year history of the N word, Davis summed up what he and Hines see as the problem with the word today. “A word with historical connections is being used recklessly in no connection to its historical roots,” he said.
The discussion then went to the use of the word in popular music by artists such as Nikki Minaj and Cee Lo Green. Davis said that it is often the artists who wrongly take the blame for the use of the N word in their songs. “We attack the rapper, but they are owned by somebody else,” he said.
The “owners” he speaks of are the heads of major media companies, who all happen to be white men.
Davis then asked the audience a series of thought provoking questions.
“Who benefits from the N word?” He asked. “Is MSUM OK with the N word being used on this campus?”
One student voiced an opinion that was echoed by many. He explained that he uses the N word as a term of endearment with his friends. He said he thinks it is a good thing that people who the word was created to discriminate against have taken it and made it something of their own, almost like a protest against the hate.
Though neither Davis nor Hines would agree that this was true, many students made similar comments to support the idea.
After some discussion and questions, Davis closed the night with one final question. “White supremacy is alive and well,” he said. “What are you going to do about it?”
The office of diversity and inclusion sponsored the lecture.