Mr. Waverly: Intimate Partner Violence and Blackface

18 Oct

A few weeks ago, a young student in New Hartford, NY was beaten to death at the hands of her boyfriend. This little town happens to be extremely close to where I attended college and the story hit home. There are many of us who bear witness to domestic and intimate partner violence in our lives and the lives of our loved ones, yet, this issue still seems to be taken lightly.

Everyone remembers when Chris Brown badly beat Rihanna back in 2009 and how some people believed she deserved it, while others believed she didn’t–in any case, the issue was largely made light of in various venues. Now, at a high school in Waverly (close to Binghamton, NY which is also close to my college), students at a pep rally made light of both domestic violence and blackface in an attempt to win the title of “Mr. Waverly”.

Now, I don’t blame students for this–I think the skit was insensitive both for its making light of racism and domestic violence. However, the administration at the school should have done its role as an educating body to enlighten students about the historical background of blackface and the ramifications of intimate partner violence. It sickened me to read some of the current students’ feelings regarding the skit: that it was not racially insensitive, that nothing was wrong with it, etc. Even the comments below the CNN article argued that no one would be upset if a man dressed up as a woman and that other skits in Hollywood have made light of the situation as well.

Just because current students, alums, and readers of the article don’t find the skit offensive does not mean it isn’t. Making light of racism and intimate partner violence renders complacency and apathy when one has no personal connection to racism or intimate partner violence (not that you need a personal connection to either to care).

As an educator, I charge school districts around the country to educate their young students about racism, sexism, and intimate partner violence in an effort to have students maintain sensitivity and awareness, even when it’s simply for a high school pep rally.

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