It is a warm Friday in our lovely Williamsburg, naturally you are indoors playing FIFA with your bros. Your friend, who you have been consistently beating since freshman year, misses the game winning shot. He gets up and shouts at his virtual Olivier Giroud, “How the fuck did you miss that! He’s such a fag.”
Now, this isn’t the first time that your friend has used this kind of language. Many times before he’s used these slurs, such as calling something, or someone, gay, or saying “Wassup, ma nigga?” when he sees you at a party. Keep in mind, this friend is white as mayo. All these instances have the same underlying theme; each of them use “casual bigotry”.
What is casual bigotry? Honestly though, what is it? I couldn’t find a consistent definition in the dictionary, Urban dictionary, or even the almighty Reddit. Amongst all the answers, I was able to boil it down into this phrase: “Unthinking/automatic use of bigoted phrases”. If you need an example of casual bigotry at William and Mary, we recently had a very public display of what it is on Facebook last week. A student screenshot and posted an image of another student’s public playlist called “Nigga music”. This student felt that it was okay, at the time the playlist was created, to get a collection of rap/hip hop music and label it “Nigga music”. Obviously I don’t have to explain why this is wrong, and I am very glad that this issue was addressed. However, there is a large problem with the way that this conflict was handled.
By going on social media and trying to “expose” the individual, you make an issue that was already bad even worse. The student who created the playlist is now seen as a racist, without any chance to explain why that playlist was created. Maybe the playlist was not created by the student. Maybe the playlist was created before the student was educated about common decency. Or maybe student is just plain racist. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, that student deserves the environment to explain themselves, and present-day social media does not allow give us that freedom.
Casual bigotry needs to be addressed in person to allow for discussion to occur.
Casual bigotry needs to be addressed in person to allow for discussion to occur. The most effective way of dealing with this issue would have been to personally tell the student that having the playlist is not by any means okay. If the individual doing the reporting still feels that merely having the playlist taken down is not enough, then working with the administration is the next step. Our institution must recognize that these events happen frequently and work with our current students to ensure that issues such as these are addressed.
Twenty minute “political correctness” seminars during freshman orientation are not enough to educate or students about what is and is not okay to say.
I hold the administration accountable in part for allowing these events to occur. Twenty minute “political correctness” seminars during freshman orientation are not enough to educate or students about what is and is not okay to say. Education on this topic needs to be included in our freshman seminar classes. Calling something gay or calling anyone, regardless of orientation, a “fag” is middle school behavior, and the students at William and Mary should be educated enough to know better than that.
Email Rahul Truter at firstname.lastname@example.org