Sunday school with Chance the Rapper
It was the Sunday night before week 6 — before a week full of midterms and papers — but nobody in the Pavilion seemed to care, because we were all too busy enjoying the whimsical, heartfelt and joyful experience that is Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World Tour.
Chance certainly brought his best to Davis, dancing and spinning and bantering with the various puppets on stage, a touch that sometimes made me feel like I was watching some bizarre and ridiculously entertaining episode of the Muppets. The set design itself was incredible, with dazzling and complementary lights accompanying each new song. Chance was backed by a drummer, keyboardist and trumpeter, additions that added effusive energy to an already vibrant concert. There is an infectious joy to his live performance that makes it impossible not to smile and dance along, even when I was thinking about the pages of Chaucer I had to read after the show.
But a review of Chance’s show would be incomplete without mention of the controversy that has accompanied the Davis concert. The ASUCD Entertainment Council shut down the initial event page after a student who asked non-black folks to give up their floor seats to black students became the victim of a barrage of racist and transphobic attacks. This ugly incident revealed that racism is still very much alive in Davis, California, no matter how hard some people may try to deny it. Spaces like the Chance concert exist for healing, and for dealing with all the pent-up anger that comes from attending an institution that was not made for you, one that is hostile to your very being.
Near the end of show, Chance treated the crowd to a rousing rendition of “All We Got,” a song that includes the lines “Music is all we got / So we might as well give it all we got.” Hip-hop stems from music like African slave spirituals, jazz, blues and gospel — genres that black people developed in order to survive systematic oppression in America — and while it’s true that anyone can enjoy Chance’s unique brand of hip-hop, non-black students will never be able to truly identify with the “we” that Chance and Kanye are referring to because that is simply not a part of their identity. And that’s okay.
What’s not acceptable is victim blaming, tone policing and quoting someone out of context. Opinion editor Eli Flesch argued in his latest op-ed that the Chance controversy is evidence that UC Davis is falling into a “culture of victimhood.” He blames identity politics for causing minority groups to “retreat inward” — as if it were a bad thing that people of color would want to find community with each other and not share something with the white people who have long been upholding systems of oppression.
Identity politics are not polluting the American university. People chalking “Trump 2016” around student cultural centers and college groups hosting events called “An Illegal Immigrant Killed My Child” are polluting our university. People need to continue rallying against hateful incidents like these and ignoring critics who insist on having a “civil and polite dialogue.” Being angry and being an activist are not mutually exclusive things. Ignoring identity means downplaying the anger and frustration that is part of the lived experience of people of color; asking people to “rise above identity politics” is a slippery slope that leads to comments like “I don’t see race.”
The crowd at the Pavilion exploded in deafening cheers when Chance burst into his verse from Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam.”
“This is my part, nobody else speak / This is my part, nobody else speak” Chance rapped, saying it twice in case we didn’t hear the message the first time: sit down and be quiet, especially if you’re going to speak on a topic you don’t know about. Maybe it’s time to educate yourself and give someone else the chance to speak their part.
Written by: Amanda Ong — email@example.com