Upcoming show draws concern

By By Carlos Mayorga and

By Carlos Mayorga

Students and faculty are concerned about an upcoming campus performance meant to confront racism by poking fun at stereotypes, which they say could perpetuate misconceptions of racial minorities.

Students and faculty members met with a representative from Kingsbury Hall on Friday to voice their uneasiness about “N*gger, Wetb*ck, Ch*nk: The Race Show,” which will run at the theater from Nov. 2 to Nov. 3.

Some students are worried about the performers’ excessive use of racially derogatory terms because people who attend the show might not understand how hurtful the words and stereotypes are, said Dhiraj Chand, director of the student government diversity board, who saw the show earlier this year.

The show, performed by three UCLA graduates, blends “theater, hip-hop, stand-up comedy, slam poetry and true-life stories with their own original style?performers take on racial slurs, stereotypes and the concept of race itself,” according to the show’s website.

The production plays on stereotypes directed at racial minorities and uses racial slurs throughout the performance, but the ultimate goal is to prove that everyone comes from the same human race, the actors say.

Rich Garcia, director of the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, also saw the show and is concerned about the impact it could have on the U.

“We do need to look for opportunities to talk about stereotypes and racism in a university setting that is intellectual and that will move the conversation for social justice and equity forward,” Garcia said. “But if we aren’t thoughtful about it, those well intended efforts can have a more negative impact than what is there.”

Kingsbury Hall approached Associated Students of the University of Utah leaders in July to help promote the show, but they refused.

Representatives from ASUU were absent at the meeting Friday because student leaders didn’t want the student body to think they supported the show, Chand said.

“This is Kingsbury Hall’s attempt to clean up,” said Chand. “I did not want to be there to sweep up their messes.”

People who attend the performance might misunderstand the overall message and look at it as a chance to laugh at racial minorities, Chand said, adding that the performers use the shock value of racial slurs to draw attention to the show. He said students might misunderstand the impact these stereotypes and words have on racial minorities.

Garcia said CESA is also not supporting or endorsing the show in any way, but because the show is coming to campus, CESA is preparing students to deal with the impact it could have on racial minorities at the U.

Sheri Jardine, spokeswoman for Kingsbury Hall, said they are bringing the performance to showcase a more “intellectually challenging theater.”

Jardine said Kingsbury Hall held a previous meeting with students and faculty in early August to discuss their concerns and created an advisory committee along with the College of Fine Arts to prepare students for the show. The committee plans to host a number of workshops and forums with faculty speakers and the actors to educate students about racial issues brought up in the performance.

“We wanted students and faculty to know we were bringing the show,” Jardine said. “We hoped it would foster discussion on campus.”

However, Chand said Kingsbury Hall should have talked with ASUU and students before deciding to bring the show to campus.

Garcia agreed that the theater should have asked for student input before making a decision.

“Some students are adamant that they don’t want this performance to come,” Garcia said. “One of the problems is when people want to address diversity, with good intent, they move forward and when they do that and not consult with whoever they are trying to engage, it creates tensions.”

Jardine said she wasn’t necessarily surprised that people are upset and understands why some are uneasy.

“Although concerns would not necessarily prevent us from bringing in a production, we could have started a dialogue sooner,” she said.

Friday’s meeting was the last the theater plans to hold. A smaller panel, headed by Raymond Tymas-Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts, will meet to plan how to prepare students for the show.

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Jarad Reddekopp

Raymond Tymas-Jones, Dean of College of Fine Arts and Associate Vice President for the Arts, voices his opinion in a discussion with U faculty Friday about an upcoming Kingsbury Hall performance entitled “N*gger, Wetb*ck, Ch*nk