Students and teachers at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, a Denver public high school, are outraged over posters titled “101 Things Black and Latina Girls Should Know” plastered across campus.
It’s as bad as it sounds. Check out some of their super advice, as reported by Fox 31 in Denver:
- “Wearing too much makeup looks like a clown”
- “Twerkin’ and grinding ain’t cute”
- “Experience holding a book (not a Kindle or reading on the internet.) This is so important for you to remember how far you have come as Black and Brown people.”
Right. Because white girls never wear too much makeup, dance provocatively or read on electronic devices? Because a huge part of the abolitionist and civil rights movements was getting children of color to put down the damn tablets and read a book made of paper, for crying out loud? Some administrators not only thought all of this was true, but that it was helpful advice for kids dealing with the myriad of pressures of being teen girls.
Part of the issue here seems to be that no one is willing to call this what it is: racism, end of story. The news anchors are quick to defend the “controversial” posters, assuring viewers the administrators likely had “the best intentions.” Can we not? When you single out black and Latina students as though the group is a monolith, admonishing them for typical high school student behavior, you are being racist.
Even the child psychologist interviewed threw a sheet over the elephant in the room. “It was just a shock,” said Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, “that in this day and age, we would be almost racially profiling our young girls.” Almost racially profiling. Almost.
This wasn’t the first “almost racist” poster campaign the school saw this year. Students also protested “101 Things Every Young Man of Color Should Know,” which made sure to let dudes in on the secret, “There are easier ways to make money than playing professional sports or rapping.” In the video, it is clear they did a clever strikethrough on the word “boys” and replaced it with “young men,” yet the young women in question remained “girls.” Don’t even get me started.
The posters have been taken down, after complaints from students, teachers and parents. It wasn’t quick, though. These posters have been up since the start of the school year, but the school district has just provided this statement:
“Denver Public Schools seeks to ensure that the diverse cultures of our students and community are valued and respected. We understand the concerns raised by those who found the poster offensive and are reviewing this situation so that we can help prevent issues like this in the future. And, we will continue our work to support responsible and effective conversations about diversity in our schools.”
Just once I would love to see a statement that straight up admits something was racist instead of falling back on the standard “sorry you were offended.” This incident proves this district, among others — remember the teacher who had white kids be cops and black kids be Michael Brown? — needs to do better. The whole system is broken, but it cannot be fixed until racism is called out for what it is.