University of Western Ontario, London, Ont. According to CBC, Wednesday, Andrew Wenaus, an English professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., made the comment during a course dubbed Reading Popular Culture.
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Chizoba Oriuwa, one of only four Black students in Wenaus’ class, told the Canadian news network the professor was “explaining that during pre-emancipation, there were house slaves and there were field slaves.”
“Then he said house slaves were referred to as ‘house n****r,’ ” Oriuwa continued. “He said the full derogatory term.”
“I was frozen and shocked because I couldn’t believe that he could say the word so carelessly and nonchalantly,” she said.
Another dismayed Black student raised her hand after the lecture and informed the professor simply saying “house slave” would have sufficed, to which Wenaus allegedly responded that he’d intentionally used the N-word to “get a reaction” from the class.
“I instantly felt like my presence as a Black student, who sat in the front-row seat, was overlooked,” Oriuwa said. “I felt devalued. I felt deeply humiliated and angered that he said something like this.”
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The fourth-year student chose to confront the professor directly after class because she strongly felt that he’d, “abused his power as a professor.”
In response to the backlash that ensued Wenaus issued an apology that was published by Western’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities.
“I wanted to demonstrate how the writing of the show is haunted by a history of exploitation, violence, and terror,” Wenaus says in his post about the lecture he gave after his class had watched an episode of the popular 90’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The teacher goes on to explain he used the N-word after making reference to scene in the show in which Will Smith’s character refers to Geoffrey the butler as “home butler,” a term he said was not only a play on the term “homeboy” but also an insult that “historically instigated class division.”
“In articulating this historical context that was used to refer to one of these two classes of slaves, I used the term ‘House n*****’ to inform the students of the disturbing terminology that was used during slavery,” the post reads.
“While the term had been referred to as ‘N’ when it came up in class prior, my use of the full term came spontaneously. . . . I recognize that my use of the word, regardless of context and intention, is unacceptable in all instances.”