California State University, Long Beach: Censorship of Play Satirizing Racial Stereotypes

Category: Free Speech
Schools: California State University – Long Beach

On August 22, California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) cancelled a September 29 performance of the play N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK (N*W*C*) due to apparent opposition to its deliberately provocative content. The satirical play is performed by Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and African-American actors who share personal narratives about how the construct of race shapes personal identity while also mocking stereotypes and racial slurs that perpetuate social injustice.

The play’s cancellation resulted in the resignation of Michele Roberge, former executive director of the Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, where the play was slated to be performed. N*W*C* has been performed at dozens of colleges and universities across the country since it was first staged in 2004. Roberge booked the play after a successful performance at the Carpenter Center last year.

On September 23, 2016, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), and the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF) sent a letter to CSULB reminding the administration of its duty to protect artistic expression and asking the university to reverse the cancellation.