Monday, June 4, 2007

No Diploma for You!

There is a high school in Galesburg, IL (Galesburg High School--go figure) which denied five of their graduates their diplomas on graduate day because their friends and families "cheered" for them as they walked across stage. Apparently Galesburg has been having a problem with rowdy graduations--or more specifically, with people applauding, whistling, yelling, and blowing air horns so loudly that other friends and family can't hear the name of their beloved graduate as they walk across the stage. And so the administrators implemented a "no cheering" policy--and to enforce it, they threatened (and carried out) the punishment that the graduates would not receive their diplomas.

So let me break it down. Five students had their family members reported as cheering too loudly, too racously, too vociferously, during graduation--they upset the sense of dignity and decorum that the Galesburg High School administrators were seeking. They made these students sign contracts that their family members would hold applause until all graduates walked across the stage.

Now. Does it surprise anyone that the five graduates were all students of color? And I don't mean this as in, of course they have rowdy families but rather, of course they were the ones who got nailed--of course they were targeted. According to the article in the NY Times, the families (4 African American, 1 Latino) said that there were white families who cheered, but only they were singled out--only their students were denied their diplomas.

I'm not trying to say that it was a necessarily intentional act of racism. But I do think that people of color often stand out, especially when they are in the minority (not sure if that's the case, but it does seem like it may be). And therefore, these families stood out. And therefore they were singled out. Unintentional racism. Yet racism none-the-less.

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