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Viewpoint: Response to 'Hood Ratchet Thursday'

BY ALLEN WU

Published October 31, 2013

As the host and author of the event “Hood Ratchet Thursday,” I would like make a formal response to Erin Fischer’s viewpoint.

First, I would like to sincerely apologize for any negative emotions that you and any other offended members of the community may have felt. Let me be the first to admit that the party's theme and the language used in the event description were insensitive and distasteful. Please allow me to clarify my motivations behind this, because it was never my intention to purposefully offend or degrade another culture or gender.

“Hood Ratchet Thursday” started out as an idea for a party centered around hip-hop music — a genre that I've grown up with and still love. As with all music, it's nearly impossible to separate from its culture, and hip hop has a particularly prolific one that pervades mainstream consciousness. At most college social events, the music of choice, if not electronic dance music (EDM) or pop, is hip hop. Thus, hearing, and rapping along to, the lyrics of A$AP Rocky's “Fuckin’ Problems” or Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” — the songs from which I derived the phrases “bad bitches” and “ratchet pussy” respectively — or other vulgar songs on any given night while out with friends is not unheard of, if not commonplace.

Mainstream hip hop is now dominated by rappers who glorify sexist and superficial themes. These are the artists whom the media promotes and whose music we all consume at social events and at our own leisure. As an avid consumer of the music, it’s easy to get caught up in the lyrics and attitude. Herein lies the first mistake I made: trying to emulate the culture and attitudes prevalent in the music.

Of course, I’m aware of hip-hop’s roots in African-American culture, and I understand why so many are upset at my usage of the words “ratchet,” “twerking,” etc. But let me be clear: in no way was it my intention to appropriate Black culture. I was attempting to emulate the distasteful party culture of hip hop, not as a synonym for Black culture, but rather as the musical genre that is consumed by all races.

Because, at least in my opinion, when hip-hop culture reaches the level of appeal which it enjoys with listeners of all races and different cultural backgrounds, it transcends strictly racial definitions. And that's how we can sometimes forget, as I did, that it's not always OK to emulate respected hip-hop artists; that racial sensitivity is no small issue; and that people can, and will, negatively perceive Black culture because of media and social stereotypes.

I wish that we lived in an age where we as people could collectively celebrate the music that we consume without aggravating racial sensitivities. It pains me to see that “hip-hop parties” are immediately cast under a racial lens, even if not so intended. Just because we celebrate and enjoy the music and terminology used by predominantly Black hip-hop artists, that does not mean we are attempting to appropriate Black culture. We take it for what it is, and that's hip hop as music, and thus, hip-hip culture. If current hip hop is dominated by terminology like “twerking,” “ratchet,” and “swag,” then that's what its audience absorbs as hip hop: it doesn't have to be Black. But if people perceive it as so, then I agree that it's completely inappropriate.

As a fellow minority, I sympathize with you for the racial prejudice leveled against you. I could never pretend to understand what you face. But as someone who has experienced firsthand how racism, whether blatant or subtle, can affect our emotions and livelihood, I apologize for any hurt that I've caused in our community.

Again, I would personally like to offer my sincere apologies to those affected by my lapse in judgment and would be open to joining the conversation on how we as a community could find ways to educate ourselves on controversial race issues so that we can avoid future misunderstandings, and move forward as a healthy, unified community.

Allen Wu is an LSA junior.