Keep turning up support to cultural shows, start turning down Yik Yak abuse

In the past few weeks, students have put aside their studies to showcase their singing, dancing, poetry and acting talents, and they have been rewarded with significant support from fellow students.

On the final day of January, friends and peers made the trek to the 560 Music Center to watch a cappella groups compete in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella quarterfinals. At the Lunar New Year Festival show, students celebrated the beginning of the new year by watching their classmates perform on stage. That same night, WU-SLam dazzled a packed Graham Chapel with its annual Grand Slam of spoken-word poetry.

A week earlier, Congress of the South 40’s Battle of the Bands at Ursa’s Stageside, which decided who would open for WUStock, had a similarly solid turnout.

Finally, students bought so many tickets to see Black Anthology this past weekend that Edison Theatre sold out on Saturday and had to open the rarely used balcony for both performances.

Editorials in this newspaper sometimes bemoan the dearth of attendance for sports teams at the University, but students deserve praise for showing up to the range of other performances. Many of the shows provide not only entertainment and the opportunity to shout out a friend’s name taking the stage but serve as platforms for discussion of important social and cultural topics.

LNYF tackled issues of immigration and socioeconomic diversity. WU-SLam performers frequently delve into themes of racism, sexism, homophobia and exclusion. Black Anthology’s skit detailed the plight of student activists organizing under tense circumstances. Given the dominant story of police brutality in St. Louis since this school year began, the moment was particularly pivotal for Black Anthology to voice its powerful message.

Yet while Black Anthology enjoyed widespread support from students, faculty and other ticket buyers, the reaction to it on anonymous social media platform Yik Yak served as a sober reminder of the work that remains in our community. Numerous Yaks ridiculed the performance for being offensive to white people or going “too far” in its interpretation of the August shooting in Ferguson (the plot centered on a fictionalized university in Baltimore but dealt with the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson).

To students who posted or concurred with messages of this nature on Yik Yak, here is a cordial reminder that prejudice is not the same as racism. Racism is a matter of power dynamics, and therefore “reverse racism” is not a legitimate social phenomenon. Furthermore, reacting to Black Anthology as offensive to white people rather than seriously contemplating the conflicts it portrayed is indicative of a persistent refusal among some at Washington University to genuinely approach the issue of race.

Yik Yak troubles aside, it is encouraging to see students filling the theaters and pews to applaud their peers, who have poured countless hours into the productions.

With The Vagina Monologues taking center stage this weekend and various a cappella concerts happening later in the month, student-led shows will continue to swarm the upcoming schedule. Let’s continue to set aside time to attend the events and foster a supportive community. In light of the Yik Yak response to Black Anthology, let’s also keep in mind that thoughtful critiques of a script, song or dance are fair, but anonymous attacks are hurtful and repulsive.

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