Africana Studies Professor Forced to Take Sensitivity Training for Writing the N-Word During Class

Africana Studies Professor Forced to Take Sensitivity Training for Writing the N-Word During Class
(AP Photo/Frank Wiese, File)

Do you go around — as surely many RedState readers do — quoting Tupac?

If so, you might wanna watch yourself.

And I’m only talking about the album titles.

Such was a hard-learned lesson for a professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

As reported by Campus Reform, last month, Melissa Hargrove tried to treat her class to a bit of American culture.

While speaking on the rapper’s 1993 Strictly 4 My N—-Z project, she wrote out the word.

Along with it: “Never Ignorant About Getting Goals Accomplished.”

Students took to social media with photos of the ordeal.

Fast-forward to a 1,028-word letter from the administration:

We have been confronted with the image of one of our faculty members…standing in front of a whiteboard with a word that presents as a racial epithet for Black people. Without context and the acronym alone, this word presents a very painful and derogatory one that is not only uncomfortable but also hurtful and troubling.

The school apologized “for the pain that this lecture about the acronym and its meaning for the ‘n-word’ has caused. We do not take it lightly that members of the UT community and friends and others elsewhere feel the pain of seeing the image that captured this acronym.”


To our community, we have heard you, and we want to account for how we can discuss this to produce more public knowledge about the gravity of this word.

UTK announced it would be “bringing expert scholars to this discussion to make this a teachable moment for the historical and contemporary sensitivities of the ‘n-word.’ We, faculty, will engage in this discussion with the greater effort to learn, to impart informed knowledge to our students, and to denounce ill-contrived, misinformed, and virulent usage of the ‘n-word.'”

The university also noted that Melissa’s intention was to illustrate “the power of wordplay in reclamation and empowerment.”

The professor had also highlighted Tupac’s acronym T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. — “The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody.”

Due to the embroilment, members of the college’s diversity departments met to figure a way forward.

Their conclusion: Melissa would undergo training from the Office of Teaching and Learning Innovation to — as stated by the school in a February 7th update — “improve her presentation of difficult, potentially painful topics in a way that is sensitive to the history and lived experiences of her students and the broader community.”

Meanwhile, someone else would take over her class — in Africana Studies.

Additionally, UTK would ensure students were cared for:

The Division of Diversity and Engagement and the Division of Student Life will work in partnership with the Africana Studies program on a series of opportunities to invite groups of students, including students in the Africana Studies major and student organizations, into a discussion about what happened, its context, its intent, and its impact.


The Student Counseling Center and the Office of the Dean of Students are available to students to provide care and support resources.

To be clear, no student had filed a bias report against Melissa.

Still, the school confirmed it would “support the Africana Studies program in bringing expert scholars to facilitate discussion of historical and contemporary racial group dynamics and of race and language.”

Meanwhile, people voiced their discontent. Apparently, Melissa was no stranger to controversy:

UTK’s Student Government Association published a statement encouraging students to “demand change.”

Despite university leadership and faculty statements that emphasize that the usage of the slur was for educational scholarship and discussion, the inappropriate nature of this incident is undeniable.

And there was this:

Campus Reform points out it’s not the institution’s first time in recent months to make the news:

In December, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville made national headlines after it pressured a student to withdraw her offer of acceptance on the grounds of her use of a racial slur at the age of fifteen.

If only Melissa had decided to teach on a completely different Tupac Shakur.

As I covered in October 2019, being in Tennessee, she had options:

He looks to be living the thuglife, too.



See more pieces from me:

20-Year Catholic High School Teacher Gets Fired for Questioning Whether George Floyd Couldn’t Breathe

Minnesota Proposes New Social Studies Standards That Call out ‘Whiteness, Christianity and Capitalism’

Minnesota Theater Cancels Musical Production of ‘Cinderella’ Because the Cast Was Too White

Find all my RedState work here.

Thank you for reading! Please sound off in the Comments section below. 

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Video