Parody and Parity
To the HLS Community:
Last year, the Parody was the topic of intense debate because the characterizations of a few students were seen by some members of the HLS community as racist and/or sexist.
The Parody and its aftermath were merely manifestations of a much larger issue. The problem is the persistence of prejudice and stereotypes in society, and our willingness to turn the other way rather than engage in difficult discussions about what it means to be a racial minority or female in today’s world. Whether you thought the depictions of certain students in last year’s Parody were humorous, humiliating or none of the above, the racialized and genderized tension those characterizations unleashed in the hallways and classrooms spoke, at the very least, to the persistence of perceived discrimination and its devastating effect in society.
In last year’s town hall on this topic, which was attended to overflow capacity in Langdell South, a number of students expressed relief. “This is the first time I have ever heard race discussed so openly at this school,” one student said. Several audience members expressed gratitude to Parody for spurring debate and dialogue about such a difficult topic. Around campus, countless smaller and more informal discussions took place amongst classmates of all races. Honest, open conversation about race and gender is the first step toward true parity in society along those lines. We hope that those conversations continue.
But amongst the voices last year, one was noticeably silent.
Dean Kagan joined the Parody cast on stage near the end of the show, sharing her usual enthusiasm and humor in a skit written for her. Despite her appearance in the show, she never publicly acknowledged the tension and distress that resulted from the controversial characterizations in it.
We were and are deeply disappointed. Dean Kagan has shown admirable courage and conviction in her political stance on the rights of gay servicemen and servicewomen in the U.S. military. We would *heart* EK even more if she had shown the same passion for open dialogue on the tension that permeated HLS during and after the Parody last year, particularly considering her implicit endorsement of the depictions through her participation at the end of the show.
By remaining silent, by choosing not to acknowledge the strained atmosphere, by staying on the sidelines, the administration missed an invaluable opportunity to recognize a troubling racial divide that affects every member of the HLS community, on campus and beyond, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. We hope that in the future, the Dean will take opportunities like the Parody controversy of last year to publicly encourage and endorse honest, constructive discussion at HLS.
Helen KimBeth HarrisGwen DavisErika JungblutJanice CorralesYaneris M. RosaAntonia FloydCalida MotleyDiane LucasAdora AsonyeClaire StewartMontrel McKayNicole WashingtonAmanda EdwardsNatalie ScurryAlexandria LeeJoseph Z. PerkinsEleanora KhazanovaCole WileyDrew E. StewartKawana T. KingJoon Oh (’06)Jessica WalderMillissa FosterKristine YenTravis TroyerKristina OliverDaron K. RobertsChaz Arnett (’06)Nefertiti JohnsonJenee Desmond-Harris (’06)Michaele Turnage (’06)Sanetta Ponton (’06)