by Simon Mehari

EVARGLOW is a dance that, for a variety of reasons, I haven’t attended since freshman year. But this year, with nothing else going on, I decided to give it a shot.

The set up for EVARGLOW was nice, if a bit cramped. Curtains were set up in the Great Hall to minimize space, but needed to be moved back mid-dance because of how hectic it was — a change indicative of the atmosphere of the night.

The lighting was great and the glow sticks made the dance lit. People seemed to be enjoying themselves. But then something unsettling happened.

The mood at Evarglow dramatically dipped when a song by Kendrick Lamar called “m.A.A.d city” was played. A line in the hook of the first verse reads, “Where you from my *****?”  

Everett, our DJ, played the clean version of the song. This happened roughly 30 to 45 minutes into the dance, soon after the girls lacrosse team had joined in after their victory. About two or three dozen students sang along with the song as they danced — including singing the n-word in the lyric.

I am baffled at how we, as a community, can assign a day of learning about cultural norms and why certain words are inherently disrespectful, and then go on to have a school dance where a word as offensive as the n-word can be said without hesitation.

Do students understand the power that word still holds in our society? Do they understand that when white students use that word, it’s often received as a racial slur? What do we need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Many members of our community worked so hard to create a day where people could feel safe to express their own identity. In many ways, that work was destroyed by one unnecessary and unacceptable moment.

Culture Shock is a student diversity conference that creates opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to gather for workshops and emergent conversations on cultural topics that affect our community.  

We invited about 30 guests from five schools and our image as a community has suffered and been question time after time this year.

This moment at the dance did nothing but perpetuate the negative stereotype that students at private schools are privileged and maybe even racist. The work for intercultural competence in our community seems to have failed if something like this can happen.

I don’t want to make any assumptions, but in my experience in this community, I have rarely encountered anyone using the n-word in a knowingly offensive way. I want to assume, for the better of the community, that it wasn’t used in an offensive way here either.

But this raises the question — how do we move forward? I think the proactive approach taken by Community Board is warranted, and I hope the OES administration joins them moving forward.

Still, that’s not enough. I believe certain steps need to be taken by everyone in this community. If everyone were to educate themselves on why it’s not okay to yell a racial slur or why the racial slur still has power in today, I think the situation we experienced at EVARGLOW never would have happened.