At Memorial High School in Hedwig Village, Texas 11th grade students participate in spirit days or weeks, not unlike many U.S. high schools, often with themes.
At Memorial, the theme Monday was supposed to be ‘jersey’ day. But a number of white students declared it ‘thug’ day and donned the jerseys of famous African-American ball players, wore their hair in corn-rows, covered their heads in durags, applied fake tattoos on faces, arms and hands, wore giant chains, and posed flashing ‘gang’ hand signs.
It’s a theme that has been going on at the school for a number of years based on social media posts that include date-stamped images. It’s not clear if it was ever sanctioned by the school or school district, but following an initial post about the thug day theme on Twitter Monday, the district said the theme was “unapproved” and inappropriate and canceled the remainder of the spirit week’s dress-up days.
Some say the theme was blatantly racist, others say is harmless.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. To Show School ‘Spirit,’ Some White MHS Rising Juniors Dressed as ‘Thugs’
“Memorial High School’s ‘thug’ day for rising senior spirit week… yes this ACTUALLY happened TODAY at an actual high school but y’all keep saying ‘racism isn’t a problem anymore’… right alright,” Twitter user @Rachellemma said on May 14.
Another Twitter user wrote, “What’s even worse, it was a STUDENT PROCLAIMED “thug day”. The actual theme was just “Jersey” love our school :)))”
Many who have reacted to the post on Twitter from late Monday afternoon find the event culturally insensitive at best and deeply racist at worst.
“Can’t blame the ignorant for they know no better.. goes deeper then these kids…”
“Ok I’ll repeat, wearing durags and cornrows to look like a ‘thug’ for ‘thug day’ is not okay because that is stereotyping people who wear cornrows and durags as ‘thugs’ when people wear them in everyday culture.”
One person noted the double-standard. This tweet had thousands of likes.
“Black kids get kicked out of school for the day until they take out their braids or take off their durags or sometimes suspended. But suddenly when white kids do it it’s fine. Hmmm seems white. Cultural appropriation at its finest.?”
“So their idea of “thug” day was to wear the jerseys of famous athletes and hairstyles that people of color wear on a daily basis ? Headphones and chains .. So .. let me get this straight.. they can get praised for imitating us at the same time we’re getting killed for it? Crazy”
2. The School District Reacted by Canceling the Last Few Days of Spirit Dress-Up
Meanwhile, this is the statement from the school district explaining the “longstanding tradition” of dressing up with a theme for spirit day claiming that the thug day theme was “unapproved.”
“Memorial High School has a longstanding tradition for its rising juniors to have special dress days during the week before finals to celebrate the fact that this student class will soon be seniors. MHS junior class officers worked together with students and administrators to create approved Monday-Friday dress-up themes: Hippie, Jersey, 2000s, USA/America, Hawaiian. On Tuesday, some rising juniors wore inappropriate dress and body/hair decorations as part of an alternative, unapproved response to the theme day,” the statement read.
“As a shared expectation about the theme was clearly violated, MHS has cancelled all remaining dress theme days for the remainder of this week. While the majority of rising juniors followed the approved dress theme on Tuesday, any instance of an inappropriate or offensive dress violation will not be tolerated. Students found to be in violation of the Student Code of Conduct and dress code will be given a consequence. MHS is focused today on preparing all students for finals and ending the school year well.”
3. ‘Thug Day’ Has Been a Theme at MHS Since at Least 2015
It turns out that the ‘thug’ theme has been around at Memorial since 2015, at least according to date-stamped images posted by students.
“This has been an issue that admin hasn’t said anything about for at least 4 years,” the tweet read.
“It was only when the racism caught attention outside of SBISD this year did Lisa Weir cancel the theme. She doesn’t care about students of color that confronted her 4 years ago abt ‘fiesta day’.”
4. The Backlash Against the Student Who Posted the Photos to Twitter Has Taken a Frightening Turn
The MHS student who outed the junior class on Twitter for its racist negative stereotypes of African-Americans said that she has been inundated with “hate” from the students.
“All of the “hate” and the threats in my dms just prove how fucked up this school really is- you speak your mind on something you KNOW is wrong and an entire class of little kids is dming you and threatening to sue… leave it to memorial to buy their way out of holes they dug lol.”
She said she’s has not only received threats, but her home address was posted and shared.
She says, “By the way- posting my home address online is not only incredibly fuc*ed up but extremely illegal. Good luck escaping from that impending punishment MHS class of 2020! You dug your own grave.”
5. Some Say ‘Thug’Theme Was a Joke & Others Say Calling it Out Reinforces Black Stereotypes
“They were joking. Come on, it’s so obvious. Playing with social meanings is completely normal. Had it been Gucci to do it, people would have considered it as a fashion statement, even as art.”
“I don’t get the racist part it says thug day not dress up black day. We are not one in the same it’s white thugs black thugs thugs of all races…”
“Delete this and don’t associate us w negativity ever again.”