Vinyl club manager uses n-word in conversation with Black Cambridge student

The student has said she is ‘upset and disgusted’ by the incident

CN: Mentions of racism

A manager at Vinyl Club has been filmed using the n-word in conversation with a Black Caribbean Cambridge student.

In a video from this Wednesday, seen by The Cambridge Tab, the manager uses the slur while explaining to the student how he “does not use the word”, after she confronted another student who was singing along to the n-word in a song.

The student, Aaliyah Liburd, a first year Law student at Peterhouse, has said she is “upset and disgusted” by the incident.

A spokesperson for Vinyl told The Cambridge Tab: “We were doing our best to calm a situation and it was never our intention to offend anybody.”

In the aftermath of the incident, Cambridge’s African Caribbean Society (ACS) is organising a boycott of Vinyl. Murray Edwards JCR told The Cambridge Tab they are supportive of the campaign.

A screenshot from the video of the club manager using the n-word in conversation with Aaliyah

Aaliyah said she confronted another student at the club, who is white, after they had “screamed” the n-word “on multiple occasions” during a song.

The club staff then came over to deal with the confrontation, Aaliyah said, and said that there was “no issue” with white people saying the n-word. “If it’s in a song, then they’re allowed to say it,” Aaliyah claims a staff member said.

The white employees of Vinyl then argued with her that “white people can indeed use the slur and it’s ‘normal up North’,” Aaliyah told The Cambridge Tab.

She says she then asked the employees: “If the song came on and the word was in there would you say it?.”

The employee replied: “Yes if it’s in there I would say it.”

After this, Aaliyah says she spoke to the club manager, who argued that “if white people cannot say it, nobody can say it.”

He added, Aaliyah said, that “as a white man”, he finds the word “very offensive” and said that “nobody should be using it.”

“I had explained to him for half an hour why it was unacceptable not only for a white person to use it, but for a white person to also argue that black people cannot use it if white people can’t,” Aaliyah said. She then filmed him saying “I don’t use the word n*****.”

In response to the comment, Aaliyah says she told him: “As a white man, you cannot tell Black people that they cannot reclaim a word that has been used against them for so many years – I know your ancestors were not slaves, you cannot tell us how to communicate with each other.”

The manager replied, saying he was gay and that he thinks “there are certain words that no one should use”, and that “it’s the same with this word.”

The employees argued with Aaliyah for “a very long time”, she said, telling her “either white people should be able to say it, or no one should say it.”

The Cambridge Tab has contacted the student alleged to have “screamed” the n-word for comment. Vinyl did not dispute Aaliyah’s account of the incident.

Aaliyah Liburd, the student involved in the incident

She explained to The Cambridge Tab about how “appalled” and “disappointed” she is at the “behaviour and attitudes” of the manager.

“No person should have to attend any establishment expecting to enjoy their night and instead be faced with the racism and ignorance displayed by the staff at Vinyl,” she said.

Black people “should be allowed to reclaim a word that has been used against them and has been a source of suffering for them for decades”, Aaliyah said, adding “it is not for white people to dictate that this is not allowed as it is ‘offensive’ to them.”

She added it was “shocking” this had happened after the murder of George Floyd and the growth in the Black Lives Matter campaign.

In a message for the manager, Aaliyah said: “Your ancestors were not slaves, therefore the slur cannot be offensive to you. I’m so upset and disgusted that this has happened on a night out and I expect repercussions for the actions of the staff at Vinyl Cambridge.”

Vinyl Cambridge told The Cambridge Tab: “We strive to create a safe and inclusive place for everyone, with a zero tolerance to discrimination of any kind. We were doing our best to calm a situation and it was never our intention to offend anybody.”

Cambridge’s ACS has released a statement about the incident, in which they said they were “shocked” and “appalled” at the events that occurred: “The use of racist language which holds incredible weight is never acceptable and should not be deemed appropriate in any context.

“It is deeply harrowing to know that as Black students, we are still not being treated with respect or consideration by certain groups and individuals.”

They added that they have made the “executive decision” to “no longer work with Vinyl in terms of events and general communications” and that they are “taking the necessary steps” to report the incident to the relevant parties.

ACS said that they “stand with the students affected by this situation” and that they “truly hope that the right justice is served for all involved parties.”

They remind their members, and students in general that ACS “continues to be here” for them, and that if similar issues arise in future, they should “not hesitate” to tell a member of the ACS committee or someone they trust so “appropriate action” can be taken.

Murray Edwards JCR has also begun meetings about boycotting the club too. A spokesperson for the Murray Edwards JCR told The Cambridge Tab: “As a student body and JCR we are going to be fully supporting the ACS movement to boycott Life and Vinyl and we will be trying to get other JCRs on board.”

Malini Sachdeva-Masson, the Murray Edwards JCR President for 2021-22, was at the club during the incident, and has said: “The Medwards JCR is standing with the ACS in taking action and demanding accountability from Vinyl for their actions, condemning all accounts of racism which occurred on the night.”