A white professor shocked students when he “nonchalantly” referred to a Black house slave as a “house n—-r,” reportedly to get the class’s attention.
Andrew Wenaus, an English professor at Western University in Ontario, Canada, made the comment last Wednesday in a course dubbed Reading Popular Culture, according to CBC News.
Chizoba Oriuwa, one of about four Black students in Wenaus’ class, told the news outlet 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–ger,’ Oriuwa said. “He said the full derogatory term.”
She said she was “frozen and shocked” and couldn’t believe “he could say the word so carelessly and nonchalantly.”
Another Black student raised her hand after the lecture and told the professor saying “house slave” would have sufficed, CBC reported.
That’s when Wenaus said in response that he used the N-word to “get a reaction” from the class, Oriuwa said.
“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.”
Oriuwa told CBC she spoke to Wenaus privately after class and told him he didn’t have the right to use the word.
“I believe he abused his power as a professor,” she said.
Mitch Dairo, another Black student at the university, detailed her initial reactions to the professor in her Instagram stories, which Andraya Sinkis later posted on Twitter.
“A prof really tried to exploit a group of people by using the N word to see what the reaction would be …. are Black people experiments,” Dairo asked. “People in the class GIGGLED. The only people that called out the prof were 2 black students. Everyone else was mute.”
She said in another post to her stories that the professor said he “was stuck in theory and didn’t know how this word would hurt others.”
“You knew,” Dairo added.
She said she is tired of people claiming ignorance.
“It’s 2019. You’re a PHD recepient,” she said. “You know that the N word is derogatory so please.”
Wenaus apologized in a statement the Gazette, the university’s student newspaper, published online Friday.
“I recognize that my use of the word, regardless of context and intention, is unacceptable in all instances,” he said. “I extend my sincerest apologies to all my students, the Department of English and Writing Studies, Western, and the London community.”