April 20, 2018
In an incident of public shaming, an anonymous student working on a theatre production for Pomona College’s Theatre and Dance Department posted several posters on buildings throughout the campus accusing a faculty member—Pomona College theatre lecturer Rose Portillo—of being “racist” for asking the student to not include songs with the word “n***a” in them for an upcoming production.
The posters—which were also posted on the theatre—were titled as a “PSA [Public Service Announcement].” The content of the poster includes Portillo’s photos and the student’s accusation:
“On Tuesday, April 17th, I was organizing song cues for one of Pomona College’ Theatre Department’s upcoming productions. My professor Rose Portillo [emphasis in original] walked up to me in class and said: ‘Nothing with nigga in it.’ I said ‘don’t say that.’ She replied ‘I’m saying it.’” The student concludes the poster by stating “That’s racist.”
According to a dictionary’s usage alert of “n***a,” the term is “taken to be extremely offensive when used by outsiders,” but is “also common in rap music.” The word is an “alteration” of “n****r,” a derogatory term referring to persons of African descent that is contentious enough to warrant debate on whether the word should be printed out in media. The poster does not clarify how asking a student to not include music with “n***a” in it is racist.
Students often work on theatre productions alongside faculty for the department, with many positions in cast and crew, including production managers. The department puts on several productions each academic year, with the latest production being a rendition of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The mission statement of the theatre department states that “[the department] embodies the liberal arts education…In an atmosphere of freedom, discipline and passion, students, faculty, and staff approach intellectual and artistically great creations of the human spirit, both in the classroom and in production.”
The Independent has reached out to Portillo asking for a response to the accusations, but has not received one at the time of publication.
This story is developing and the Independent will provide any available updates.
This article was posted: Friday, April 20, 2018 at 6:37 am