Hopkins High School is one of the top public schools in Minnesota, which prides itself, though not always with justification, as having excellent public schools. Hopkins is in an “outer ring” suburb of the Twin Cities. This is a set of bedroom communities developed over the last several decades as well-to-do city folk moved out of the urban core, and American immigrants from the coasts and elsewhere moved to the Twin Cities during periods of economic prosperity and growth. These suburbs and their schools are relatively white and relatively privileged. We see racist things in these places from time to time.
Back in February, the ski team had an away trip, over Presidents’ Day weekend. The students took the initiative to incorporate a theme in their dress on the trip. They would wear “ghetto” or as some called it “rapper” attire. These were mainly white students doing a parody of African American urban culture. A couple of African American students learned of this on the day the students were to leave, and by midday had lodged a complaint with the administration, indicating that they felt that this was a racist and disrespectful making fun of the very small minority of black students in the school. The ski trip students were allowed to continue with their dress up game, and the school later claimed (despite evidence to the contrary) that they learned of this problem too late to do anything about it. Apparently, an organized act of racism was not considered a reason to either delay departure to give the privileged white students time to change their clothes. Apparently, an organized act of racism was not considered reason to cancel the trip and sit down with the students for some sensitivity training, or for that matter, to discipline them.
Two of the African American students in the school decided to protest the event. They produced posters, which I’ve not seen, and placed them on wall space within the school. The administration immediately took these posters down, claiming (probably correctly) that students are not allowed to put things on walls without the administration approving the materials. After the posters were taken down, the African American protesting students went to an assistant principal’s office to get the posters back, and the assistant principal did exactly what one would expect one would do in a Twin Cities mainly white suburb when the angry black people show up: The police were called in. All Twin Cities schools have police officers on hand (just like the NRA has been suggesting for everybody).
According to the police one of the African American students placed his hand on the chest of the police officer to move around him while trying to carry the posters out of the office. According the students, there was no putting of hands on any police officers.
The two students were arrested, charged, expelled for three days and fined.
Later, the white ski trip students sat with the African American students and the school’s administration. The white students expressed regret for their racist act and said they were sorry. They were sent off with the appreciation of the administration for their brief moment of contrition. The African American students were sent off with a police record. Zero tolerance for civil disobedience in protest of racism. Full tolerance for actual racism.
Way to go, Hopkins High.
UPDATE: I’ve noticed that some inter-mural sporting events, including skiing, have rules about racist and sexist behavior. It seems as though this may have been a violation of such rules. One wonders why the school allowed a sports team to go to a meet while clearly violating a rule like this, if this is the case. If the students “needed” to dress in their racialized costumes because they had nothing else to wear, a reasonable though unpleasant decision on the part of the administration would then have been to simply cancel the trip.
The story was discussed today on Minnesota Public Radio. Photo from HopkinsPatch