Students outraged by event featuring 'racist' Jewish rapper

Sandor Farkas
Collegiate Network Fellow

  • Student leaders at Washington University in St. Louis have written an open letter condemning their student government representatives for inviting Jewish comedic rapper "Lil Dickey" to headline an upcoming concert on campus.
  • Dickey often mocks contemporary rap culture and attempts to be “relatable,” though some find his satire offensive or even racist, and accuse him of exploiting his "white privilege" as "a white rapper in predominately black art form."
  • A scene from Lil Dickey's music video for "Lemme Freak."

    A group of Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) students condemned the invitation of Jewish comedic rapper Lil Dicky.

    According to Student Life, 16 students, including the leaders of several minority advocacy organizations, sent an open letter to the Social Programming Board (SPB) Thursday criticizing its members for failing to “listen” to “the black community’s legitimate concerns,” not “apologizing sincerely” for the invitation, and inadequately addressing the problem.

    "He literally puts himself in the situation as a white rapper in [a] predominately black art form."   

    “We must also hold the student body of this university more generally culpable for this terrible decision,” the signatories argued. “It is disturbing that so many of our classmates—the people we study, work and live with—chose a known racist to represent them.”

    The letter-writers had initially sought endorsement from the Student Union Senate during its regular meeting Tuesday, but decided to release the document publicly after only three senators voted in favor of the motion.

    [RELATED: University sponsors 'Hip-Hop and Social Justice' conference]

    Lil Dicky, born David Andrew Burd in 1988, worked in advertising before attempting to break into comedy and acting. His first music video went viral in 2013, and his brand of satirical rap has since earned him widespread popularity and gigs with more mainstream rappers.

    Lil Dicky’s work often mocks contemporary rap culture and attempts to be “relatable,” though some find his satire offensive or even racist, and accuse Lil Dicky of indulging in white privilege.

    Hence, when WUSTL chose him to headline its fall music festival, WILD, some students raised objections, citing a 2014 VICE interview as evidence that the SPB’s choice was “racist and insensitive.”

    Shane Rossi, for instance, complained to Student Life that Lil Dickey uses “sexist and misogynistic references” in his music, while Keona Kalu told the paper that the rapper appropriates black culture in his music and twists hip-hop culture for personal gain.

    “How hard is it to go into Google and type in ‘is Lil Dicky racist?’” student Hiba Yousif asked on another occasion. “These people are celebrities; this information isn’t that hard to find.”

    [RELATED: Student: how do you reconcile feminism with misogynistic rap?]

    Since SPB had already finalized a contract with Lil Dicky, students decided to stage an “Alternative Wild” event as a “form of protest,” promising that it will feature performances designed to make marginalized students feel comfortable.

    “I think there can be a level of separation [between artists and what they produce],” explained Clayton Covington, one of the co-hosts of the alternative event. “However, in this specific case that separation is definitely not present, especially because he literally puts himself in the situation as a white rapper in [a] predominately black art form.”

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SFarkas48





    Sandor Farkas

    Sandor Farkas

    Collegiate Network Fellow
    Sandor Farkas is a Collegiate Network Fellow at Campus Reform. Prior to starting this fellowship, he was a Tikvah Fellow. Farkas earned a degree in history from Dartmouth College, where he was editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth Review. Farkas also serves as an officer in the Virginia Army National Guard.
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