By Max Furigay
Last week, the Trinity College community came together in a massive campaign to disinvite Action Bronson from Spring Weekend. A change.org petition, which as of press time contained a little over 1,300 signatures, was one of the main voices of the anti-Bronson brigade, with students, alumni, and concerned community members all weighing in on the debate.
Now that Bronson has been banned, however, with the litany of well-thought out reasons as to why he should not be welcome on campus delineated, it should be obvious that he never should have been invited in the first place. Even if one were to overlook his transphobic, misogynistic lyrics and even if one were to ignore the intolerant and hateful remarks regarding rape and the LGBT community, it is still undeniable that this is not the type of inconsiderate person that we want to welcome to campus. This is not the type of person that we want to publicly approve of.
There is a part of the campus community that cries that this is “PC culture run amok,” and that those who don’t approve of the artist could simply not go to the concert. Others argue that characterizing Bronson as misogynist or transphobic simply isn’t accurate, or that these characterizations are typical of the rap genre as a whole. These complaints are utterly without merit.
Let’s be clear: an overreach of “PC culture” might include people getting offended when someone uses the term “black” instead of “African-American,” or a protest at whish students ask a university to censor free speech because that dialogue might hurt or offend someone else. This is not about being politically correct, or making sure no one gets offended, or even about creating “safe spaces” on campus. It’s about the type of person that we want to endorse, and it’s about the message we send about our community when we invite someone who has publicly endorsed rape, someone who glorifies obscene violence towards women, and someone who makes derogatory remarks towards the LGBT community to campus.
To those who claim that this is not a fair representation of Action, that he’s all about love and togetherness and culinary arts, I argue that endorsing rape is similar to consuming three-day old Chinese food—You can’t undo it, no matter how regretful you might be, and its effects will haunt you for a long time. After Bronson teases transgender people on social media sites, or glorifies violence for violence’s sake in his songs (no matter how obscure the lyric), the burden of proof that he doesn’t believe in these things rests on Bronson. And clearly, Trinity hasn’t accepted his pleas that he’s changed yet.
It’s true that rap was the genre selected by the student body this fall, and that many rappers do have violent lyrics. But we don’t need to look at the situation in a vacuum. The question isn’t whether Bronson is worse or better than other artists. The question is whether Bronson is a tolerable choice to perform on our campus.
Just to put aside any ideological issues I may have with Bronson, take a look at the pragmatic side. Action has already been banned from a concert at George Washington University, as well as Toronto’s North by Northeast Festival, in two highly-publicized campaigns. As the petition pointed out, Trinity College is ranked the 17th most homophobic college in the nation by the Princeton Review as of 2014. Trinity also has a high rate of reported sexual assaults in the nation, according to the US Department of Education. Our acceptance rates are reaching record heights, with an acceptance of almost forty percent this year, and our yield remains tiny. And people think that it’s a good idea to invite this guy here? Do we really want to be known as the one school that DID want Action Bronson? The school that welcomed him, in light of all other circumstances? Even if I loved the guy and all of his ideas, I would never dream of inviting that storm of publicity to our college. Our reputation is bad enough. These numbers show that Trinity really does have a problem with sexual assault and with our LGBT community. Why make it worse by inviting someone who, at worst, champions rape and homophobia, and, at best, has been ambivalent about it? You heard that right. At best, Bronson can be categorized as being ambivalent about rape.
Rape is not really the type of thing one should be ambivalent about.
Last week, I watched our community definitively state that we do not stand for those who promote sexual assault. That we care about the comfort and needs of transgender and gay students. That we do not welcome anyone who promotes this sort of culture. Regardless of the circumstances of how it occurred, we came together to send a message about our school and our community about tolerance, inclusivity, and respect, and it was absolutely stunning to witness. After last week’s events, I am much prouder to call myself a Bantam, and it wasn’t just our community that took note—our activism towards Bronson made national news, all over television and news websites. While it might not be as satisfying as spending our entire Spring Weekend budget on performers in order for us to have a great weekend, it should be some consolation that we were able to make this valuable statement in response to Action Bronson. And next Spring Weekend, can we please just get Dave Matthews Band?