Readers React: 'Blackface' Incident at Hopkins High School

Two students face misdemeanor charges related to the February incident, which came to light last week.

A tense debate has erupted in the comments thread of an article here on Hopkins Patch as your fellow readers debated a February incident at Hopkins High School that one African-American student labled "modern-day blackfacing."

As we wrote last week, prosecutors have charged two Hopkins High School students with misdemeanors following a confrontation in the assistant principal's office. The confrontation arose following student protests aimed at the school’s handling of an incident in which they say several white students mocked black culture.

"Mike B." lauded the district and police response:

The school administrators were correct to call the police, as it would appear the school administrators were threatened and intimidated by the "students."

Regarding the alleged incident itself.... these "students" who were arrested seem to be making a federal case out of nothing. Nowadays, every little perceived annoyance is blown up into a false charge of racism.

Other readers agreed, including "Derrick:"

Since when is the 'blackface' used so flippantly, especially with regards to this incident? The use of this term in conjunction with what happened totally underscores and minimizes the term and its' history. Calling white students, who are mimicking what I see as the negative side of hip hop culture, modern day blackface(ers) is the pot calling itself black, so to speak. I am African-American, and I don't want my culture lumped together with the underside of hip hop culture...If these kids were truly offended, then they should have been able to, or they need to learn how to, frame their frustration in a constructive way to exact change, not throw around 'catch' phrases like 'blackface' and get the police involved

Some readers, including "Tiffany Ramm," denounced the event:

As a woman of color, a resident of Hopkins, and a School Social Worker of another school district; I feel there has been a HUGE oversight of these students feels, perspective, and voice. Hopkins has struggled on and office with racial tensions for years and maybe all these students wanted was some validation that there feelings were real.

"Alan Stone" chimed in as well:

People, especially white Christian people and that includes white Christian students don't begin to understand the hurt, the anger, etc. etc. etc. that discrimination causes 
those that have been discriminated against. The school was completely out of line for letting this happen, from beginning to finish.

The school district has not posted a response to Patch yet, but did email us this statement after we contacted them:

In February, there was an incident at Hopkins High School involving three students dressed up as rappers. Two students felt offended by this behavior and reported the incident to the administration. The high school responded to this matter in a way that was fair and appropriate for all students involved. The high school used outreach as a key strategy in resolving this issue and brought all students together. All students shared perspectives and had a chance to be heard.

There was a separate incident where students were disciplined. Because of data privacy laws, we are not able to share the details of this incident; however, we can say that the incidents are distinct.

At Hopkins High School, we are committed to the success of all of our students. We do not tolerate behavior that is offensive or disrespectful. When a student brings such behavior to our attention, we take it seriously and intervene. We are confident that the facts do not support any allegation that we treated students unfairly. Because we take these issues so seriously, we are voluntarily working with a third party to review our handling of this situation to ensure all policies, procedures and practices were appropriately implemented.

What do you think of how the students involved comported themselves? Do you agree with the way the district and school administers responded?

Ray April 28, 2013 at 08:41 PM
The question was not about the composition of the ski team. Rather why they were never punished. Differing standards perhaps ?
G Cremer April 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM
It was a question to you, Mike B. based upon your comments I was trying to ascertain what your views are. I'm not judging you--just wondering if you feel that blacks are less educable or uneducable. Some people feel its fine to think whites are superior; i'm wondering if that's how you feel. Also wondering in what way are whites discriminated against if there are black students in the school? I never said the ski trip was only open to whites. It's my understanding that the trip was a ski meet that the ski team was competing in. The white students who dressed in the insensitive costumes were on the ski team. Students must be accountable for their actions. So must the Admin. They are the adults, they are there to teach the students. I don't think they failed because they're bad people. They failed because they don't have a good anti-bullying program. Racism is a form of bullying (I prefer the term harassment as the term "bullying" connotes the "...just kids being kids p.o.v.) Obviously the Admin's goal wasn't to have students arrested. They failed to deal with the black students initial complaint immediately.
G Cremer April 28, 2013 at 10:53 PM
All student are "real students" and they learn intentional and unintentional lessons from the HHS staff. They blew this lesson but its not too late for them to get it right. I hope they do so before summer break.
G Cremer April 28, 2013 at 10:57 PM
"Instead of making excuses, you should place the blame where it lies, with the "students" who disrupted the day for the real students who were there to learn, and not walk out over some misbegotten perceived slight." Mike B., here we totally agree. The white students disrupted the day and the students who filed a complaint with the Admin. wanted to get back to their studies.
G Cremer April 28, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Derrick, I'm far from expert but my understanding of blackface is white people portraying black people using stereotypical dress, face paint, speech, song, dance, etc., that reinforces a negative perception of black people before a white audience. Blackface may not or may not have started out that way, but that's how it's been generally perceived for the last 100 years or more. The white students may not have intended for it to be hurtful, but they do need to learn that it was and is. If the black students felt mocked, hurt, disrespected then they have a right to define how it feels to them. And it sure sounds like 'black-facing' to me, whether their faces were painted or not. Hopkins School District will not change their behavior until it becomes too uncomfortable to NOT change. It's not slander if that's how it made those students feel. And if it gets the Admin's--and we citizens--attention then more power to their characterization.


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