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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Opening up about the ‘N-word’

By Carlos Mayorga

The “N-word” is often used carelessly in media and music, and in most cases, people are uninformed about the deep, hurtful meanings behind it, a scholar from Chicago told a crowd of about 100 students and faculty Thursday.

“My talk is not to change people’s practice, but I want them to think about the word and think about the context and the historical usage,” said David Stovall, a professor in the department of policy studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “If we had contextual understanding of this word, it may not change our practices of using it, but it would definitely make us think about it.”

Stovall gives the “N-word” lecture about 20 times a year but mostly spends time teaching high school students and working with community organizations in Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I think these are issues that need to be spoken about, especially being an African-American woman at the University of Utah where I can’t openly talk about it,” said Nandi Magadla, a freshman majoring in mass communication.

The hour-long lecture that tackled the history and current-day usage of the “N-word” is part of a larger series of lectures sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Utah, the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, the Office for Diversity, the College of Social Work and the Office of Student Affairs.

The forums are designed to tackle issues of race, identity, politics and social justice-topics people aren’t always comfortable talking about, Stovall said.

“Let’s be painfully honest about this,” Stovall said to the crowd. “This dialogue doesn’t need to be safe all the time. We have to be painfully clear about what the history of the United States has been for me and you.”

The idea behind the lectures is to raise awareness across campus about issues that speak directly to the lives of many students at the U, said Octavio Villalpando, associate vice president for diversity.

“The students in CESA were very interested in making sure there was an understanding, a cross-campus framework to make sense of all the discourse that is going on right now,” Villalpando said.

These lectures are not being held in response to the upcoming Kingsbury Hall show “N*gger, Wetb*ck, Ch*nk,” but some students in CESA thought these forums would be a good way to start discussing the issues the show could raise, Villalpando said.

Some students in CESA and ASUU have objected to the U bringing the show to campus because the actors repeatedly use racial slurs.

“How do we bring a play like that without context?” Stovall said, adding that discussions need to take place before the show, so that people can know it isn’t just about laughing at stereotypes.

“I think (my lecture) allows them to contextualize the upcoming show,” Stovall said.

Stovall later answered questions and greeted students and faculty in the CESA offices.

“It was a discussion that was much needed because we have this play coming, and a lot of times, people don’t know how the word has been used to oppress people,” said Andrea Garavito, a graduate student in education, culture and society. “There has to be a dialogue because words are hurtful, and there are people on this campus that those terms are very hurtful to.”

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Jarad Reddekopp

University of Illinois at Chicago professor David Stovall delivers an interactive presentation on the origins and misuses of the “N-Word” in the Union on Friday.

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