Spring Cleaning: Some of my Thoughts on Spring Weekend and Race

Image by Emma Lloyd
Image by Emma Lloyd

My first Spring Weekend was the year of Chance the Rapper. On my way into the concert, I had this conversation with a white guy who lived on my floor (and who I won’t name here):

White guy: “Hey Malana, you’re Black right?”

Me: “Yes… Why?”

White guy: “So, is it okay for me to say the N-word if I’m singing along to a song?”

He then proceeded to give me an example and walk away.

It was as if singing gave him an excuse to be publicly, enthusiastically racist, and as if I could speak for all Black people in answering his question.

I wasn’t on campus the following spring, so my second Spring Weekend was this year’s. My boyfriend and I got there early. Front row, against the barricade. And all the people next to us were Black. Everyone vibed for Funkinevil, but when Tink came on, the pushing started. I got pushed so hard against the barricade I started coughing. I tried to get whatever air I could. I have bruises on my chest, diaphragm, and knees. A Black woman a few people down told the security guard she couldn’t breathe and asked him to help push people back. After all, crowd control is their job description. This guard–who was a white male, like the overwhelming majority of the security team–told her there was nothing he could do. He told her to move to the back if she was uncomfortable, a difficult task  when you’re pinned against a wall by a mob. Hearing “I can’t breathe” in this context, I couldn’t help but think of Eric Garner. Though these two events– Spring Weekend and Eric Garner’s strangulation by a police officer in July of 2014– were not the same, but they shared a demonstrated disrespect for Black bodies by authoritarian figures.

As the concert went on, a bunch of white people made their way to the front. They eventually displaced the Black people in the first few rows of the crowd. A white girl pushed her way into the front next to me, putting her hand on my boob, on the skin of my side, and under my elbow on the fence. When I tried batting her away, she became angry. A white frat bro-lookin-type almost elbowed me in the head. And blocked my view. There you go: Spring Weekend gentrification.

The next day–that of the magical Tinashe–my (Black) boyfriend and I got in line early, again. When the gates opened, I went through quickly. I stood on the main green waiting and watching people who had been behind us come through. Leave it to racial profiling to slow him down. The white female security guard who searched him made him turn out all his empty pockets twice and open his wallet. Instead of the regular light pat down he had gotten the day before, this guard patted him all over, even pulling up his jeans and searching around his ankles and shoes. When the guard asked him to turn his gloves inside out and he hesitated, she bitingly said, “Don’t be scared.”

Brown students need to check their privilege at Spring Weekend in a serious way. The safety and well-being of marginalized people needs to be prioritized in the space. I’m sick of the Frat boys who come out to see Black artists on Spring Weekend but won’t support Black people on this campus or outside of it. I’m tired of the lack of respect for people’s bodies and consent, especially those of people of color. And I’m sick and tired of the blatant cultural appropriation.  To use substances publically without repercussions is a privilege. Hell, the accessibility of this concert to us as Brown students is a privilege.

I swear it’s like white people just magically pop up out of nowhere during Spring Weekend. I know this isn’t true– I attend a predominantly white university. But I have largely separated myself from majority white communities at Brown for my mental and physical health. When white people separate themselves from POCs, it’s often out of fear, ignorance, or both. My opinion wasn’t changed for the better when the interactions I was forced to have with these white communities were met with violence. Bro culture is oversaturated with racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and rape culture. Spring Weekend gives me anxiety because I am forced to face just how much I am not accepted on this campus.

POCs! This is our campus too. We should not feel excluded and faced with a wave of micro- and macro-aggressions every time Spring Weekend comes around. I know I have been conditioned to just tolerate it, but I can’t anymore.

White people! I would rather you come out to see Opal Tometi than Fetty. Blackness is not monolithic, so just because you know the lyrics to Trap Queen don’t mean you down. Never, ever wear those fake-ass “tribal print” temporary tattoos. If you’re going to drop Black music and words like “lit” as soon as you graduate into a corporate job, think twice about appropriating a culture that is not your own. Being drunk or high is not an excuse. Instead, make physical, mental, and verbal space for people of color. Recognize the systematic abuses, like racial profiling by security officers, and don’t stand for it. Cut yo’ shit and check yo’self.

Light skinned and white passing POCs! This includes me. Yes, this affects us too, but oppression is layered and colorism is real. Make that space and stand up for your darker skinned brothers and sisters. We know it’s no guarantee white people will do the same. Stay woke.

Brown Concert Agency! Keep supporting young artists of color. Make sure there’s more diversity in the security hired. Crowd control and crowd control training should not police people of color, but instead protect them.

President Paxson! This needs to be addressed. Part of the Diversity and Inclusion Plan is, well, Inclusion. A recent article detailed how students may choose not to participate. Now this article exists showing a critically conscious race-based personal analysis. How many more articles, how many more protests, how many more “incidents” will have to occur before you realize that these problems run much, much deeper?

I know this article does not fully address the complexities of race in Spring Weekend. I encourage you to keep a critically conscious conversation going. Share your stories if you are comfortable doing so.

If this article makes you uncomfortable, think about why. I have written similar articles before criticizing the University’s policies around race. Like then, I wouldn’t be surprised if people try to dismiss my arguments and experiences as those of an irrational, angry Black woman. Well, let me break it down right quick: I am angry, I am Black, and I am also justified.

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