January 24, 2018

Ulyana Sergeenko References the Jay-Z and Kanye West Song with the N-Word

Warning: Uncensored n-word is found in a screenshot of a written note in this post as proof.

White designer Ulyana Sergeenko is being criticized for a note written to fashion entrepreneur Miroslava Duma.

On January 22, 2018, Duma posted a photo of a note she received from Sergeenko on her Instagram story which said, "To my ni**as in Paris". Subsequently, after receiving backlash, Sergeenko posted an apology on her Instagram account which has since been deleted.

Screenshot of Miroslava Duma's Instagram story post.

The original post said:
"I woke up this morning with my phone full of insulting messages "you deserve the worst in your life", "die white trash" .. and so on. I was born in a small town in East Kazakhstan, my daughter is half Armenian, I have never divided people on white or black. Kanye West is one of my favorite musicians, and NP is one of my most favorite songs. And yes, we call each other the N word sometimes when we want to believe that we are just as cool as these guys who sing it. I am deeply sorry to everyone whom I might have offended. Mira is a dear friend and even the fact that she so naively posted my private card to her on her social means that we meant nothing wrong and didn't realize the consequences. I have certainly learned my lesson and I am grateful for it. There is enough anger in the world out there, please, can we stop it here? [Red heart emoji]"
There are several problems with the way Sergeenko addressed the issue. She starts off by mentioning the "insulting messages" that she received. I agree with her, in that these comments are not appropriate in addressing this situation because they are likely to be hypocritical. "You deserve the worst in your life" or "die" for saying a slur*? If we condemn people for every single instance of racism or prejudice, then every single person, including people of color, should be condemned because no one is totally non-racist or non-prejudice (not to say that racism or prejudice is the same thing). Obviously, this isn't to say that slurs are okay, but I would argue that saying a slur is less deserving of such comments than, say, the KKK or other darker acts of racism. However, by starting off her "apology" in such a way, she fails to recognize that she was the one who messed up and failed to recognize the issue. She is fighting back against her criticizers who, while they might have approached it in the wrong way, have pointed out something very valuable which is that Sergeenko is not in the position to use the slur.

She makes several attempts at shaking the blame off of her by blaming outside circumstances for her ignorance, "I was born in a small town in East Kazakhstan. She also attempts to make the, "My friends are POC" argument by pointing out that her daughter is half Armenian as well as the infamous "colorblindness" argument, "I have never divided people on white or black." All of her efforts at reducing the blame says a lot more about her lack of understanding and her reluctance to take responsibility for her actions than her willingness to learn anything out of the situation. This is demonstrated by the way she ended her post, "There is enough anger in the world out there, please, can we stop it here?" The criticisms aren't merely about "anger." They derive from the fact that the n-word was used (and continues to be used) as a slur, a word to separate black people from those who were considered normal, deserving, human, white.

When black people use it, it is used in an ironic way or as a way to reclaim the word. When white people use it, it encourages the continuation of a historically racist word in a society where white supremacists marched freely with torches and without masks in the streets, where police brutality and bias led to arrests and even deaths of black people, and where black communities are being held back systematically. The word which separates black people from others simply cannot be used by a privileged group** who doesn't face the same troubles that black people have faced and continue to face for generations.

*I refer to the n-word as a slur because when it is used by non-blacks, it is not merely a colloquial term.
**Of course, other non-privileged groups like Asian or hispanic groups cannot use the word either.

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