In the latest incident of race-fueled hysteria on American college campuses, three employees at Indiana’s Grace College and Seminary have been fired after they posed as rappers for a parody album cover.
Grace’s marketing department holds a weekly “theme day” for employees, encouraging staff to be fun and festive. On June 2, the theme was “wrap day,” where lettuce wraps were served for lunch and employees were asked to dress up as rap musicians.
Five Grace employees, however, took things to the next level and created a parody rap album cover, donning fake gold chains and “Thug Life” tattoos, while one employee wore an Afro wig. (For a parody, it actually looked pretty good!) The letters “N.G.A.” appear in the corner of the album cover, playfully referencing a term coined by Grace students: “Not Grace Approved,” and also parodying a real hip hop outfit from California, N.W.A.
One would think students at Grace would appreciate the staff’s willingness to participate in the festivities, having fun with the theme and going far above what was expected of them, but one would be mistaken in this age of Social Justice activism.
Soon there was backlash. The employees’ offense? They are white, the aggrieved howled. One Facebook commenter said the employees all enjoy privilege.
Forget that white artists and producers have been an integral part of hip hop from early in the genre’s history; according to the chorus of outrage that erupted from Grace’s student body, hip hop should be off-limits to white folks—or at least it’s hard to interpret the incident any other way.
“What point are you trying to make?” asked another commenter. “That you’re gangster, thug, or hood? […] [T]he only time [those terms] seem to be okay is when white people use them to make light or fun of the situation.”
Perhaps Grace needs a new prerequisite course in satire and parody, as the above responses completely, painfully, miss the fact that the photo was taken in the spirit of humor and silliness.
Three of the five who took part in the photo were fired, including Evan Kilgore, a recently-graduated Grace alum. It isn’t clear why the college decided to fire some and not others.
“I am feeling overwhelmed and hurt,” Kilgore told IndyStar soon after his termination. “We thought it would be a funny parody of the Grace College culture.”
Grace’s President, Dr. Bill Katip, issued a statement calling the picture “insensitive and inappropriate.”
“It is important for the public to know that Grace College is committed deeply to diversity and inclusiveness, and conduct that demonstrates insensitivity to these values will not be tolerated,” the statement read. “Grace leadership has taken steps to ensure that this sort of incident will not recur, and several of the individuals involved are no longer employees of Grace College.”
The incident is one in a long line of recent race-related controversies at American colleges, such as the uproar over Halloween costumes on several campuses last year.
“June 15 would have been my one-year anniversary. I do not believe this was handled in the most graceful manner,” Kilgore said, making a probably-unintentional pun.
Hopefully somebody informed the humor police at Grace of this latest infraction.
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