Saturday, November 7, 2009

Using the Masters Tools: Students at WashU

When Regis Murayi (in the P-coat) set up the culminating party for his trip to Chicago with 200 of his classmates, I'm sure the senior class president at Washington University in St. Louis didn't think he was going to be the one who wouldn't get into the party that night. Unfortunately he in fact didn't get in because apparently the jeans that he and six of his friends, also African American, were wearing were too baggy according to bar officials at Original Mother's. Needless to say Murayi and his peers found this "dress code" peculiar so they got one of their white classmates to put on Murayi's jeans and see if he could get in the club. Fernando Cutz had no problem with entrance, and he took a commemorative pic from inside the club with his baggy jeans so there could be no disputing his entry.

This story is beautiful to me because as inexcusable as the behavior of the bar officials was, the response of the students is a classic example of using new millenium tactics to combat age-old ideologies of privilege and race. It would have been simple for the Black students to resort to violence or act out in some way that would have landed them in jail, creating a police record that would have trailed them as they tried to transition into the professional world. Instead they took advantage of new media to expose the behavior of the bar staff and shape the narrative that would be told as the story hit the national news. It is also of note the role of the White student, Mr Cutz, who was willing to use his privilege as a white dude for justice. His actions underscore the idea that it takes EVERYONE to combat racist ideologies. Now two weeks after the incident, the students and the bar owners are reported to be close to a "resolution" of the matter. The requests of the students have not been released, but it should be understood that the willingness of Original Mothers to negotiate is in part driven by the fact that the negative press they have received has affected their bottom line ($$$). Kudos to the WashU students for using their education instead of raw emotion to combat the racism they faced in Chicago.

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