The theme of the day for a Houston, Texas high school spirit week was “Jersey Day,” but many students refer to it as “Thug Day.”
Some thirty white students came to Memorial High School donned in “cornrows, baggy sports jerseys and gold chains,” according to HuffPost which, as you might surmise, “sparked controversy” after photos were posted on social media.
“Black people with this hair are denied jobs, internships, and get harassed at their schools. Here, Memorial High School students, are using it as costume,” a Twitter user reacted. “It’s rude. It’s racist.”
Memorial senior Rachel Goodwin says Thug Day has been an “undercover” Spirit Week occasion for years, and school officials don’t seem to care. They’ve “never changed it or disciplined the students wearing the things that offended many students,” Goodwin said.
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
But this time the school responded by canceling the remainder of Spirit Week, noting “any instance of an inappropriate or offensive dress violation will not be tolerated.”
HuffPost spoke with seven current and former students, including Goodwin, who said that racism and bigotry are rampant at Memorial High. Ava Lahijani, an Iranian Memorial High student, said that racism is pervasive at the school but is “swept under the rug” all too often.
“As a black student I am already not represented well at my school,” junior Laura Fields added. “To see these events happen on Tuesday deeply offended and saddened me. I couldn’t grasp how the staff could let this happen again after years of the same thing.”
Fields said that this type of behavior is “nothing new” for Memorial: her sister graduated four years earlier from the high school and “thug day” was still happening.
Monica Day, a 2016 graduate, confirmed “thug day” has been happening for years, just under a different name. She told HuffPost that when she was at Memorial High in 2015, a few of the themed days for Spirit Week were “Swag Day” and “Senioritas Day” which, Day said, devolved into the same offensive costumes. She said on Senioritas Day many students wore sombreros and mustaches, and one female student wore a Border Patrol outfit.
Student Gabby Hamlin, who’s black, said she’s received death threats for speaking out against the unofficial Spirit Week day:
“These last few days, I’ve been full of necessary rage against people who invalidate people like me,” she said. “Playing with a defined stereotype that hurts black, and other minority communities isn’t appropriate for a high school spirit day.”
IMAGE: Evgeny Bakharev / Shutterstock.com