In The Chronicle’s April 2 issue, the National Panhellenic Council printed an apology in the form of a paid advertisement speaking to the use of hate-speech at this past Black Student Alliance Invitational Weekend’s NPHC step-off performance. The letter states that “offensive language that was perceived as a hateful and derogatory attack” on the LGBT community was used during the performance. To clarify, during the NPHC Step Off, members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. yelled out “Gay Phi Gay” and “they’re just a bunch of f- s” to ridicule other NPHC groups.
The damage done by this performance is irreparable. Prospective black LGBT-identified students who attended BSAI weekend left with one impression of Duke after that performance: The use of hate speech in public Duke events is condoned, as per the laughter that followed the step-off performance. No NPHC officer made a statement to the audience immediately following the performance. The show went on as if nothing had happened. I imagine that any prospective black LGBT students in the audience left feeling alienated, knowing that they were not in fact welcome at this school.
There is no question of how this language was “perceived,” as the apology letter implies: Hate speech is hate speech. The apology fails to address the damage done to LGBT students who are also members of NPHC and were at BSAI weekend. The statements were made with the intent to hurt someone—whether it was another NPHC group or not, it hurt us all in the eyes of the prospective students.
So the NPHC apology and subsequent Omega Psi Phi e-mail are polite gestures, but too little too late. One letter is not enough to undo the damage done by hate speech. Let us begin a conversation. Begin by reading the stories of real students, on our blog at www.bluedevilsunited.com.
We look forward to working with any student (NPHC or not) who believes in the destructive power of hate speech.
President, Blue Devils United
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.