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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?

G Cremer April 24, 2013 at 07:20 PM
HHS failed in so many ways, turning what could have been a "teachable moment" into 2 arrests, two 3-day suspensions & heightened racial tensions at the school. They continue to fail as they refuse to justify the different treatment the black students received & deny any wrong-doing. The Admin. is avoiding examination of the most damaging events--the arrests & suspensions of the two black students--by calling them "separate" & "distinct" incidents. The white students, to my knowledge, received no discipline for their offensive behavior. I put far less "blame" on the students involved. Parents, teachers & community are supposed to be teaching them what is offensive, what is intolerable, & most importantly, what is tolerated. Why didn't the admin respond to the black students complaint & ask the students involved to discuss the situation immediately? Why were the white students allowed to remain in the costumes and go on the ski trip? Why didn't a teacher or other staff member report the costumes when the white students walked into their class? Why did the Admin. turn a peaceful protest (the posters) into an emotionally charged situation, resulting in arrests & suspensions? Why didn't they address this situation with the entire school body? HHS has failed to create a CULTURE where bullying & racism are not tolerated. The proof of their ignorance is in their inept and damaging handling of this situation. How can we expect students to act better than those that lead them?
G Cremer April 24, 2013 at 08:05 PM
RE: Mike B.'s comment: "...the school administrators were threatened and intimidated by the "students..." Were they really? A police officer with a gun was threatened when a student tried to move past him to pick up their posters? Was it the officer's best judgement to diffuse the situation by making an arrest? And not only arrest the student who allegedly touched the officer, but both of the students? "...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..." No one has the right to decide what is or is not offensive to someone else. The reason to wear the costumes, to my knowledge, was created by the white students; I don't believe it was sanctioned in any way by the school. It was known as "Rapper Day", "Ghetto Spirit Day" and "Straight Out of Compton Day"--it's pretty clear that their dress was directed at the African-American community, and not in a positive light. The black students went to the office mid-day to say that they felt offended. They handled it respectfully and followed the appropriate procedure. When the Admin. ignored their concerns and allowed the white students, who were members of the ski team, to continue to wear the offensive costumes and to go on a ski trip that afternoon, they felt further disrespected by the people who are supposed to teach and protect them. And why do you put the word students in quotation marks?
G Cremer April 24, 2013 at 08:23 PM
RE: Derrick's comment. "...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..." Derrick, you do realize that the students wearing the negatively stereotypical costumes in celebration of their self-initiated "Straight out of Compton Day"/"Rap Day"/"Ghetto Spirit Day" were the WHITE students? The black students told the Admin. around mid-day that they were offended. When the Admin. did NOTHING, the black students put up posters the following week in peaceful protest. The Admin. called the police when the two students came to see why their posters were taken down. Would the police have been called if they were two white students? We can predict that based on how the Admin. treated the offensively-dressed white students--who were allowed to wear the costumes, go on their ski trip and didn't receive any disciplinary action.
Derrick April 25, 2013 at 09:04 PM
With regards to G Cremer….Using the term 'blackface' to describe what happened is a slippery slope of word association...in order to bring relevance to a situation. This is where I take offense. Kids dressing up in a 'ghetto' style of dress is not the same as black-facing, period. Anybody who persists on using this to make an analogy is not really aware of the history of black-facing. Are these boys wrong for not being pc, most definitely... could it have been handled differently, maybe…but none of us were there to see what actually happened, and because of a calculated use of words, there is a publicity surrounding the reporting that lends itself to a vilification that comes across as inflammatory and slanderous.
Derrick April 25, 2013 at 09:05 PM
There are too many mitigating a factors being touted about this incident. In different accounts of this incident I have read that the boys told administration from a range of time from mid-morning to later in the afternoon. I know that even in my work day, as a manager, sometimes it takes a bit of time to get to a problem, when it is brought to my attention, because I already have a full schedule. Peaceful posters, have you seen them G Cremer? I haven't, and how are we to know whether or not they were peaceful? The MPR article about this incident states that the posters were aimed at an administrator. How is that peaceful, or better yet, when did the story get spun to imply that they were peaceful? Once again, story inflations abound. And yes G Cramer, I am well aware that the students are black… and that the members of the ski team were white, these are facts that have been uniformly reported across all the accounts of this incident.
Andrew McClusky April 26, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Like the bullying issues over at Eisenhower Elementary, this is just another Dr Schultz and District 270 failure. It seems like Eisenhower trains the white kids to bully and then sends them off to the Jr and Sr high school to continue their white privilege attitude. Note how the white kids are the instigators, but the African American kids are the ones who get arrested...typical consequence for District 270. It's time for the superintendent to resign in disgrace for another race issue in the district. School board...where are you and why are you tolerating this?
Mike B. April 28, 2013 at 01:18 AM
There is no "white privilege." Whites are actually discriminated against, in that the more minorities there are in a school, the school's test scores go down. It's a fact. The black students, instead of railing against the school administration, should make an effort to achieve. Instead, they walk out of classes, which hurts all students. There was a reason black students were disciplined... they caused trouble. Hopkins administrators have gone out of their way to accommodate black students. And this is the thanks they get???
G Cremer April 28, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Mike B., Do you consider yourself to be racist?.
Mike B. April 28, 2013 at 06:35 PM
A cheap and insulting comment, G. Cremer. Have you no shame? The first refuge someone whose argument lacks merit is to label someone a "racist." You are also wrong on the ski trip. The ski trip was open to all students, not just white students. 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.
Ray April 28, 2013 at 06:50 PM
No, it does not take that much time to get to a conduct problem. Are u kidding me. Conduct problems are supposed to be attended to immediately cause they impact the immediadate safety of the school. Also, you have no proof that the black kids were not peaceful.
Ray April 28, 2013 at 08:39 PM
"Hopkins administrators have gone out of their way to accommodate black students." - And how do we know this is as fact ?
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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