Hopkins High’s Ghetto Spirit Day

wigger-155133In February,  white students at Hopkins High School, members of the ski team, held what they called “Rappers Day,” which became known as “Ghetto Spirit Day,” in celebration of an upcoming trip. It consisted of students dressing up as “gangstas” including: wearing do-rags, gold chains, sagging pants etcetera. This has garnered attention because two students are facing legal trouble due to a heated conversation in an Assistant Principals office. In this conversation one of them allegedly put his hands on a police officer’s chest, trying to clear a path for leaving the office, after attempting to retrieve posters which had been confiscated, made in protest of the event.  These students are black. This is where most of the analysis will end. That is a shame.

Listen: Peoples culture, race, and ethnicity are off limits. It should be a fairly simple lesson to learn. Sadly, many do not pick up on this. Instead, they find their amusement in mockery and get let off the hook by the convoluted idea we are somehow post-racial. Nothing can be farther from the truth. This incident at Hopkins High offers the opportunity to illustrate just that.

First, this type of event, whether it was actually “Ghetto Spirit Day” or “Rappers Day” doesn’t matter because of the racial nature of hip hop, steams from the ugly history of minstrel (blackface) in this country. The students who protested this event clearly picked up on this as one told MPR: “They dressed up like gangsters basically. There were sagging chinchilla coats with the chains, joint in the ear just mocking our culture. Really how we reacted, we felt it was modern day ‘blackfacing.’” That’s all it should have took for the administration to step in and do some meaningful intervention, including disciplining the students who planned the event. Sadly, this is not what happened. The students responsible went on their ski trip. When they returned they had a conversation where they got to say sorry and reassert they are not racist. No, you, and Hopkins High, are racist, period. This is because racism is not about intent it’s about impact, and the elevating of whites over people of color, which is what mocking a distinctly black culture amounts to. By failing to react appropriately to the concerns of the black students who were protesting the school sent the message that their concerns were not legitimate, that they were not worthy of consideration. The school essentially gave the ski team the benefit of the doubt and dismissed the black students. This was reinforced with the removal of the protest posters for, what amounts to, a technicality: having them stamped. When something like this happens there is often no time to go through the “appropriate channels.” Instead of punishing these students Hopkins should have recognized the circumstances and stamped the posters as they were hanging. This would have shown support for the students and demonstrated a commitment to racial justice and equity; instead the school chose to be sticklers for “the process” and demonstrated their commitment to a racist status quo.

As bad as that is, the racial implications of this matter do not end there. The students were suspended and are now facing criminal charges due to the confrontation in the Assistant Principals office. This is not insignificant. The school to prison pipeline is well documented, and this is yet another example of it. Sure, making contact with a police officer is never a good idea, however, these are teenagers in an emotionally charged situation, I don’t think a “push” warrants charges. No physical injuries have been reported by the officer (to my knowledge); I am sure some discretion could have been applied and the charges be dropped or never even pursued. The students were already suspended, which is a part of your permanent school transcript, why compound the punishment? Predictably, this did not happen. Charges were filed, and now theses students, who were simply trying to get some justice and respect, are faced with a criminal record. Again, NOT INSIGNIFICANT! This is all to say nothing of why a police officer was called to the office in the first place? Were the students violent? Threatening?  Or, were they simply black men, and as such seen as a threat? What are police doing in our schools anyway? The conflation of our criminal “justice” system and education is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed immediately.

It is not too late to get some form of justice. Demand that the charges be dropped and that Hopkins High School address the concerns of its 30% non-white population. Here is a free hint Hopkins (if you’re reading): A good first step would be listening to those concerns in the first place!

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8 thoughts on “Hopkins High’s Ghetto Spirit Day

  1. Did you really just suggest that the history of black culture is properly represented by… “furs, weed, gold chains, and saggy pants”. As one black american to another? This article is bullshit. Let our people be represented by education and protests about real world social issues, not saggy pants and weed.

    This is an insult to any black american with a brain. The history of the clothing choices you are so quick to claim as “black culture”? Are from the 20’s and 30’s Italian mafia and prison inmates of all colors.

    Stop making everything about race, you are destroying any chance at advancing past seeing color before people.

    1. Let me add… you said, “As bad as that is, the racial implications of this matter do not end there. The students were suspended and are now facing criminal charges due to the confrontation in the Assistant Principals office.”

      How is the fact that the kid pushed the Assistant principle and is now getting suspended and is facing criminal charges “racially motivated”? ANY kid that pushes a figure of authority on school grounds faces the same reaction. You push an officer? You go to jail. Doesn’t matter if that officer was hurt or if you are white red yellow or black… We ALL need to learn to use words, not hands.

      1. Using a biased resource to research a subject? That’s like asking me to research white superiority from “KKK.com” or Black Superiority from the Panthers.

        When you set out to find racism, it’s tends to exist in every movement, action, and resource you seek. People like you aren’t a part of the solution? You are a part of the problem. You equate everything you can to an injustice… to have a voice. Have you personally questioned this School Officer or the teenager involved? Or are you basing your opinions off of the reports of another biased resource? Assumptions about motivation only fuel hate of our differences rather then seeking truth, or any actual justice. You should put your gift of word to a positive use, praise the good in people vs. searching for the bad and intolerant. You might succeed in spreading acceptance vs. more hate for each other.. But if hate is what you choose to preach? Run with it.

    2. Peace, Concerned Citizen thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. No, I actually didn’t suggest that. I said that the conflation of those images and black culture was actually racist. I have three main claims in the essay 1) that hip hop is a culture with roots in black America and that the images these students chose were stereotypes and insulting representations of hip hop. 2) that the school should have taken the protests and concerns of the black students more seriously to demonstrate a commitment to racial justice. And 3) that the suspension and legal charges are a manifestation of the school to prison pipeline which target specifically young black and brown men.

      Feel free to disagree with any of those but please do not misrepresent my stance. Re-read the essay if you need to.

      1. Those images are not owned nor belong to any one culture. Asians, Latino, Indian, even White Kids dress this way as a symbol of their gang affiliation… Hip Hop and Rap stole that “culture” from prison inmates. This look is NOT black history, it’s Inmate history, hip hop took from what prison started… Don’t confuse the reality with what you wish to be perceived as reality. It represents violence, theft, and thug mentality. Hip hop is not defined by it’s clothing choices.. or the gangster life that often accompanies it (which vary from suits to baggy pants) it’s defined by it’s message. You limit and hurt the entire black culture with your idea of what Hip Hop is.

        If the students in question had fun with this instead of trying to seek out hate in every motivation? This wouldn’t be an issue. For instance… where is your blog about this:

        I don’t see protests about this… no heated blogs… and yet here is a black man in white face. Should I cry REVERSE RACISM? And prod a mob of angry white cattle into my “cause”? No. The man was having a good time… he didn’t mean any harm.

        But by your suggestion? Maybe you should start a campaign to empty out 70% of all Halloween stores, because parody costumes of all kinds are offensive. No more Hillbillies, White Trash, Hop Hop Artists, Cowboys, Indians, Mexican Ponchos & Sombreros, Asian Costumes, Swedish Costumes… You get the point. Why? Because according to you, dressing up in clothing that parodies someone elses “culture” is racist.

        Or are the only cultures that mean anything to you the ones that give you a hot button for your blog?

        I find this blog insulting. I believe these students were having fun and meant no harm, I believe that the kid who pushed or shoved the teacher was wrong and needs to learn how to behave. That the rights we all deserve? Would be easier found with words and kindness to each other rather then ridicule and accusations.

        Find a better way to help the community at large then crying racism every time you see a chance to attack vs. educate.

  2. Concerned Citizen, you are wrong about prison, hip hop, and a great many other things- I suggest you read Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop to educate yourself along with some Critical Race Theory. Thanks for taking the time to comment on the blog. If you don’t appreciate the content feel free to start your own.

  3. I know this is an old post but as a student that was involved in this spirit day for our ski team I am curious how you arrived at the conclusion that I am a racist person, despite not knowing who I am, how I act, or that I was dressed as Macklemore, with a fur coat on that coincidentally happened to be my grandmothers, just like macklemores in the song thrift shop…before you insinuate that people are racist at every turn examine why you call them racist. Is macklemore racist for being a white rapper and taking black culture? How about Eminem for the same reason? Are african-americans racist for playing baseball, something that was a strong part of american culture before african-american involvement? It is a two-way street that needs to be recognized before you call someone you don’t know or understand, a racist.

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