Students at Washington University in St. Louis are outraged at the invitation of Jewish comedic rapper Lil Dicky, whom they claim is appropriating black culture by being a rap artist.
In a Thursday report on the school newspaper, a group of 16 students, including leaders of social justice advocacy organizations at the school, have penned an open letter to the school’s Social Programming Board panning its decision to invite the comedian and rap artist.
They accuse the school of failing to heed “the black community’s legitimate concerns” about inviting him and for “not apologizing sincerely” for subsequently inviting him. They believe the decision to invite him, as well as his performances, to be a legitimate problem that affects the black community.
“We must also hold the student body of this university more generally culpable for this terrible decision,” the letter 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 group initially sought to gain endorsement from the Student Union Senate during its meeting on Tuesday, according to Campus Reform, but decided instead to release the letter publicly after it failed to gain any traction.
The group does not clarify exactly how Lil Dicky, whose real name is David Andrew Burd, is racist. Lil Dicky shot to viral fame thanks to the popularity of his videos on Reddit in 2013. His satirical rap act earned him widespread fame and engagements with mainstream rap artists.
His work — which mocks contemporary rap culture, its obsession with “bling” and ego-driven hip-hop personalities — has caused some to accuse him of being racially insensitive.
When the university chose him as the headlining act for their fall music festival, WILD, some students cited a 2014 VICE interview as evidence that he was racially insensitive towards black people.
Other complaints about the hip hop artist include claims that he uses “sexist and misogynistic references” in his music, and that he appropriates black culture by rapping, because he’s not black and satirizes hip-hop culture for kicks.
Students who signed the letter have decided to stage an “Alternative Wild” event to protest the musical festival. They promise that their alternative event will be a safe space for marginalized students.
“I think there can be a level of separation [between artists and what they produce]. 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,” said Clayton Covington, who is co-hosting Alternative Wild.