KERNS: Three little words, one big reaction



Bryan Kerns

N*gger. Wetb*ck. Ch*nk. These words, taken together, seem to have ignited some discontent on campus in the past two weeks – more discontent than they normally ignite during an average Villanova week.

Those three words, taken individually, constitute some of the most hateful invectives you can spew and represent a multi-generational, indeed a multi-centurial, history of white privilege in the Western world – the result of colonialism, racism, any and all of the “isms” that have contributed to a long history of oppression.

Let’s talk about those three words taken together before we get into any more about their individual implications.

Last week’s editorial took the position that the N*W*C comedy show had an audience that was considered “the choir.” The time-honored parry to the “preaching to the choir” thrust is: doesn’t the choir need preaching, too?

The audience two Fridays ago included high school students, diversity peer educators and many other individuals from around campus. It included University administrators and faculty. It filled the Villanova Room.

The true mark of that show is that it was called inflammatory by members of the community who weren’t even in the room. While their concern is appreciated, how can they contextualize it if they weren’t even there? But we’ll excuse that since N*W*C was expected to incite something of a reaction on this campus.

Aye, there’s the rub: the reaction on this campus.

There was a talk-back session scheduled for last Friday in the Connelly Cinema, which no more than 15 people attended. Those present, including myself, resolved to schedule another session in order to facilitate a productive discussion of the issues brought to the forefront by N*W*C.

The reaction on this campus to that show has been to complain about its inflammatory nature and then retreat when given a forum to discuss the issues the show talked about. That’s called complaining without the moral courage to stand by your complaints in a setting designed to discuss them. Put it another way and it’s called apathy.

By no means am I saying that this University is the only institution of higher education in the United States plagued by apathy – but I go to Villanova, not anywhere else. As the president of the University clearly stated in his Inauguration speech, “We need to stop referring to ourselves as ‘Vanillanova.'”

Issues like those presented by N*W*C don’t go away because you stop talking about them. They only get worse if you stop talking about them because it then allows an institutional indifference to set in – an unacceptable path for any university, but one that is even more unacceptable for a university that calls itself Catholic and Augustinian.

Yes, I agree that the choir was present for N*W*C.

It’s a proud choir and an active choir, though, so it’s not all bad. It’s a choir that comes from nonintersecting constituencies on this campus. I was there. I’m a white, heterosexual, suburban Catholic kid – not exactly the type of student alluded to in last week’s editorial.

I’ll go out on a limb and speak for the rest of the choir and say that we left the room more energized than ever about the state of things on this campus and elsewhere. What happens next is up to the rest of the campus.

I have a few ideas about what needs to happen next. The University needs to engage in a frank and open dialogue on the issues put forth by the oppressive and operative “isms” that quietly permeate our society today.

It has been said that students withdrew from the University because of the tremendously unfortunate comedy act that took place in the Pavilion during New Student Orientation last August. I was there. It was not a pleasant experience. I will not ascribe blame for that and will continue to echo my full support of the Orientation staff for the immediate action they took to handle that debacle.

We ought to have N*W*C for New Student Orientation to begin that frank and open dialogue on the issues. If we do and students withdraw from the University, it will be because they’re not comfortable in an environment that includes, as our president said, “a diverse community of race, class and geography” with people “of different faiths, orientations and experiences” – which means they shouldn’t be here in the first place.

The time has come for the University community as a whole to practice what its mission preaches.

The choir is ready. The man at the pulpit is ready. The congregation needs to fall into line.


Bryan Kerns is a freshman honors major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].