We shouldn’t have to hear homophobic and sexist slurs in advisery



A video of Ta-Nehesi Coats was shown in the N-word presentation

On the last day of the N-word presentations, advisors and advisees watched a video of Ta-Nehisi Coates addressing a student at Evanston Township High School about the use of the N-word.

Coates is a renown writer who has published several powerful pieces on white supremacy in America and policies towards Black Americans; there is no doubt that he is qualified to speak on the subject.

Coates said the N-word multiple times in his speech, which he arguably has the right to, as a black person. But he also voiced slurs against communities he isn’t a part of, such as the B-word, which is used to marginalize women, or the F-word, historically used to belittle the LGBTQIA+ community.

The choice to include this video in the presentation screams rashness and hypocrisy. Students had just had 3 days of learning why saying a slur is bad, even if it is not out of malicious intent.

We were rightfully told that singing the word in a song, reading it out loud, or using it in our own vocabulary is all wrong.

Though Coates was saying those slurs as examples of words he couldn’t use, he still voiced it out- loud, incensing terrible imagery of cruelty.

The B-word has often been used to demean women who are assertive as a way to silence them into submission. The F-word remains a prolific slur, utilized to hurt members of the LGBTQIA+ community and is often hurtled as a synonym for “weak”. Saying these repulsive words can and does harm members of both communities.

Even if it was for a split second, LGBTQIA+ and female- identifying individuals, both students and teachers, were forced to confront jarring verbalization of institutionalized hatred.

Advisers were given a pre-written statement on the slurs the morning of the presentation to read, but it left little room for students to prepare for it or opt out of hearing the video. There is no reason an academic institution should inflict this distress onto their students.

But the school doesn’t need to hear that; it has publicly acknowledged the damage that saying slurs out loud does to students. They officially made a statement, as a school, expressing that they did not want their students to use racial slurs as it reflects poorly on others and the community. The question then becomes why they felt that it was okay for students and teachers to hear Tah-Nehisi Coates say these slurs.

Perhaps this carelessness is due to the fact that we have not had many public incidents with the B-word or the Fa-word. In the 2017-2018 school year, we had three separate instances of the N-word being graffitied on bathroom stalls, which made headlines on the Chicago Tribune and ABC-7. It was clear that we needed to come together to have a discussion about the N-word in particular.

But that doesn’t have to come at the expense of other marginalized communities. LGBTQIA+ individuals and female-identifying individuals suffer from prejudice and microaggressions frequently in this school. “Bro-culture” is still very much alive and harms students and teachers from both of those communities.

Limited discussion of LGBTQIA+ individuals in history classes, English texts, and health class is a predominant issue which plagues our curriculum.

This isn’t about deciding who is the most oppressed of them all, rather creating a welcome environment for everyone.

People might think a few seconds of one video isn’t a big deal. But bigotry thrives and festers on repeated patterns of neglect from school leaders who have a duty to manage a safe school community.

There were many other videos that could’ve been chosen with equally powerful oratory, or the words Coates used could’ve been censored out.

We have to do better.