Yes, “Gangsta Night” already sounds like a problematic situation, but according to the New York Times, white students at Windsor Central High School organized a themed event at a basketball game where they dressed as notorious gangs, the Crips and the Bloods.
Complete with accessories that had them looking like walking, talking Black stereotypes, the Times’ described them as a collective of kids who displayed themselves out of touch and ignorant. “Some had fake teardrop tattoos, others wore shower caps, white tank tops, and low-rise jeans that exposed their underwear,” the Times reported. “One proclaimed he was from the Bronx and another wore a thick chain around his neck. They flashed hand signals and snapped photos and shared them on Snapchat.”
The Windsor, New York high school has only one Black staff member, who also happens to be the coach of the girls’ basketball team. Kashif Summers said that at least half his all-white team participated in the event. He messaged the students on the team’s group chat to express how it offended him, to which no one responded.
To make matters more interesting, even the white parents defended the actions as “innocent,” saying, according to Summers, “Some of these adults are saying, ‘Oh, you’re just making a fun thing that kids do over clothes as a major issue.’ But it is a major issue. Let me ask you a question: Are you going to be looked at as a threat in those clothes and get stopped by the police and harassed? If I do it, I’ll get ripped apart.”
Former students expressed disdain, but the larger issue is the longstanding racism in a school where it is majority 96 percent white with only 22 Black students who attend. Isaac Hyde, a Black former student who graduated from the school in 2016, said he was constantly called racial slurs by white students who were never reprimanded for it.
“The teachers didn’t comment on anything; they wouldn’t stop the racism,” he said, adding that he remembered teachers also stereotyping Black people as drug dealers and thieves.
JaVanté Owens, a Black student who graduated in 2017, said she was cast as the ghost of a white soldier in drama class, and her instructor kept making her put talcum powder on her face to look like her white classmates.
“The atmosphere was the most racist and toxic I’ve ever encountered in my entire life,” she wrote on Facebook. “It really affects me even to this day.”