Friday Feminist Fuck Yeah: Student refuses to sing Whitman’s “Song for Democracy”

Ok so I actually don’t know if this person is a feminist or not. But standing by one’s anti-racist values like this, despite the cost is a little feministy.

Timothy L. McNair is an aspiring opera singer and graduate student studying at Northwestern University. Walt Whitman was an American poet who is revered for his contributions to American literature and prose. Here is what many folks took for granted about each of them. Whitman was racist bigot who equated black folks to primates, stood by the position that American wasn’t the place for blacks, and believed that we should be eliminated. As for McNair, he is willing to risk his graduate degree to resist that racism.

So what do Whitman and McNair have to do with one another? Well, McNair was required to sing Whitman’s “Song for Democracy” an ironic title coming from a man with such strong opinions about fellow Americans, as one of the requirements for his degree. Taking offense, for obvious reason, McNair refused and was failed by his professor Donald Nally.

I’m of the opinion that simply assigning another song to sing would have sufficiently averted the issue and not have had to cost Mcair a degree. This of course reflects my bias as a Women’s & Gender studies major and someone who left the science field, not only because I sucked at it, but because I realized that I performed better when I was an active participant in knowledge building as opposed to just accepting information. Obviously, other people, Nally included, think students should just do the work given to them.


Feministing's resident "sexpert", Sesali is a published writer and professional shit talker. She is a queer Black girl, fat girl, and trainer. She was the former Training Director at the United States Student Association and later a member of the Youth Organizing team at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She received her bachelors in Women's and Gender Studies from Depaul University in 2012 and is currently pursuing a master's in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. A self identified "trap" feminist, and trained with a reproductive justice background, her interests include the intersections of feminism and: pop culture, youth culture, social media, hip hop, girlhood, sexuality, race, gender, and Beyonce. Sesali joined the team in 2010 as one of the winners of our So You Think You Can Blog contest.

is Feministing's resident sexpert and cynic.

Read more about Sesali

Join the Conversation