If Lil Nas X was so eager to go to hell, maybe it’s time we ask why.
On March 25, the rapper took the internet by storm with the release of a music video for his song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” Descending to hell on a stripper pole, Lil Nas X gave Satan a lap dance, broke free of the chains that had been placed around his wrists and angered much of the public along the way. The University of Mississippi could learn from this. It’s time we break the chains, and if people are upset, so be it.
Despite the immense backlash it received, Lil Nas X’s video remains an insightful commentary on the inclusivity our society alleges itself to value yet often fails to uphold. Because of his sexuality, the rapper knows what it’s like to be told that a good place is not for him. This is true of the heaven to which he is told he lacks access, and this is true of the music industry in which he makes a living.
This begs the question: if heaven is a place where you aren’t allowed to be yourself, why is it so good? What makes hell look so bad?
This process whereby desirable places are reserved for those who fit a certain mold hits close to home in the university community. On a campus where a large percentage of students are Greek-affiliated, Lyceum offices are given to “good old boys,” and even some diversity and inclusion teams are bastions of whiteness and wealth, we must ask the questions begged by MONTERO. How can a place claim to be heavenly when it restricts the self? How can a place claim to be open and diverse — as we do in our UM Creed — when it fails to uphold openness and diversity?
The answer to these questions is rather simple: it cannot. We cannot. As a university, we lack a legitimate claim on the label of “open and diverse environment” that we grant ourselves. Yet, hope is not lost. We may become what we allegedly aspire to be, but this will require a change in outlook. Rather than relegating people who do not fit the “Old Southern mold” to secondary places, we must give them priority in our university environment. We must uplift, and if that seems hellish, then it’s time to dance with the devil.
Again, there will be backlash, and university administrators know this. Perhaps this is why they denied Garret Felber’s $42,000 study and struggle grant; perhaps this is why they acted swiftly with state auditor Shad White against James Thomas’s suggested Scholar Strike. As the names of our buildings and sources of our funds indicate, becoming the place we claim to be could hurt our bottom line. But these are the opportunity costs of progress, and it’s time we pay up.
While I hate to evoke the language of the enemy, perhaps LSU fans were right this once. Go to hell, Ole Miss. You could learn a thing or two.
Spencer Heitman is a sophomore public policy leadership, English and philosophy major from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.