Officials denounce 'heinous' actionsSome Red Wing High School students struck a racial nerve last week, drawing a stern rebuke from members of the black community and school administration.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Some Red Wing High School students struck a racial nerve last week, drawing a stern rebuke from members of the black community and school administration.
Dozens of students on Wednesday donned clothing and exhibited behavior that black students found demeaning, said LaVergne Dickerson, advocacy coordinator for the African American Literacy Project of Red Wing.
"'Wigger Day' or Wangster Day,' terms translated to 'Winger Nigger' and 'Winger Gangster Day' were interpreted to be a mocking of low-class African American citizens," she said, reading from a letter at Monday's Red Wing School Board meeting.
Principal Beth Borgen said 60 or 70 white students — upperclassmen boys and girls — wore doo rags, ball caps cocked to one side, oversized sports jerseys and shorts, and low-slung pants. The look is popular in hip-hop culture.
Borgen confirmed the day is referred to among students as "Wednesday Wigger Day."
Dickerson said the school's students of color expressed shame following the "mocking of culture and ethnicity."
"Yes, this did happen last Wednesday and the last couple years," she said.
Borgen said students taking part in the unsanctioned activity were rounded up and told to comply with school dress code policy. Almost all did, she said. The prior two years of "Wangsta Day" also have required students to comply with dress code, she said.
Students taking part in the act last week knew it was inappropriate, Borgen said, noting that many students had changes of clothes in their vehicles and lockers.
"I as a principal do not want to see this behavior continue," she said. "I was shocked and appalled."
Maxine Pruitt said her daughter, a high school senior, came home Wednesday in tears. It was the second time the so-called "Wangsta Day" had elicited such a response in her daughter, Pruitt said.
"It is hard for children to learn when they're being ostracized for their color," said Pruitt, who is black.
Pruitt called the act "heinous" and said she was shocked such behavior continues in the present day.
"This is not still the 50s and 40s," she said.
School Board Chairman Mitch Boldt condemned the behavior, saying some parents may need to be spoken with — depending on the severity of their children's behavior.
"Parents are responsible," he said. "This is happening in our community and it's not acceptable."
Dickerson and Pruitt called for action from school leaders to ensure the behavior doesn't continue. Dickerson said school leaders should seek to learn from the offended students why last week's incident was troubling.
She also suggested Red Wing students become educated culturally on the contributions of America's black leaders, saying "African Americans are not what they see in the music videos."
School Board member Heidi Jones called the incident "rotten," but expressed satisfaction that discussion on cultural issues had begun.
"I see we're already having that dialog," Jones said. "That's the grandest first step."
Supt. Stan Slessor agreed something should be done. He said the education system is focused so strongly on core subjects that issues like cultural awareness can be pushed to the background.
"We have pockets of doing some good things. We don't have a systematic way," Slessor said, calling for a "connected approach" to weave cultural education into the curriculum.