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A Texas high school has come under fire for hosting a “Thug Day,” where white students took that to mean dressing in cornrows, chains, jerseys, and fake tattoos, aka things Black students often get punished for.
At least 30 students went to school on Tuesday in such attire, which was part of spirit week at Memorial High School (MHS) in Houston, according to KHOU11. The week is supposed to celebrate rising juniors ahead of finals by maintaining different themes each day, such as “Hippie, Jersey, 2000s, USA/America, Hawaiian,” the latter two of which also sound problematic.
On Tuesday, user @Rachellemmma shared photos of students appropriating Black culture under the offensive guise of “thug” in a tweet that went viral.
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 isnt a problem anymore”… right alright. pic.twitter.com/f3qHXR0B53
— Rach (@Rachellemmma) May 14, 2019
“Black kids get kicked out of school for the day until they take out their braids or take off their durags or sometimes suspended,” responded one user. “But suddenly when white kids do it it’s fine. Hmmm seems white. Cultural appropriation at its finest.”
Other people felt the hypocrisy as well:
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
— Glow.Up.King (@TheR3alGlow) May 16, 2019
That goes back to that saying bro. Everybody wanna be black until it's time to be black. Or another one I heard. They want our rhythm but not our blues.
— Miguel Banks (@GuelTheReal) May 16, 2019
It’s a crime on us and a privilege to them bro
— Glow.Up.King (@TheR3alGlow) May 16, 2019
According to statements from MHS, this particular day had not been approved by school officials. Students reportedly changed “jersey day” to “thug day,” according to Heavy.com.
A former student told KHOU11 that the day used to be a “senior swag day,” and the school even had a “senoritas” day to celebrate Mexican culture. But that reportedly prompted some people to dress up as border patrol or, in trying to “act Mexican,” some would ask to mow people’s lawns.
After the backlash, MHS said in a statement that the remainder of spirit week was canceled. “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,” offiials said, according to KHOU11. “Students found to be in violation of the Student Code of Conduct and dress code will be given a consequence.”
MHS’s population is more than 60% white, with Hispanic students making up the second largest population at 19%.
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Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque