For me, growing up in the 1970’s Halloween was a really big deal. We actually went trick or treating for days (not just on Oct. 31), often hauling away trash bags full of candy. In the early 1970’s my family moved to Baltimore County and back then there were very few Black families living in Randallstown; hard to believe given the demographics of Randallstown today (more than 80 percent of the population is Black).
The point is when I was a little Black boy dressing up for Halloween, in the midst of an overwhelmingly White environment, I don’t remember one White kid who dressed up like a member of the Ku Klux Klan, or some White kid who smeared black shoe polish on their face while pretending to be Black. I’m not saying it never happened, but I never saw it.
However, in the last few years, many of us have witnessed a growing number of social media posts, usually around Halloween featuring young White people dressed up like, to let them tell it, as, “ni–ers.
This week is Halloween 2017, and here we go again. This time it’s White kids at Baltimore area private schools celebrating “All Hallows Eve” disguised as “ni–ers.”
My friend Khadijah sent me a post on Facebook, with a photo of a young White female and young White male dressed up in orange jumpsuits, standard prison garb. The caption attached to the photo read, “Ni–as broke out.” The White girl flashed faux (I suspect) gold teeth (grills) and the White boy flashed a “gang sign” for good measure; the girl is a student at Roland Park Country School, the boy a student at Gilman School, both in Baltimore.
In another photo a White boy donned another orange jumpsuit, but the back of his costume was adorned with the name “Freddie Gray” on his back. He is a recent graduate of Boy’s Latin High School in Baltimore. The caption for that photo read, “ur going to jail tonight.” In a third photo, another White male is shown shirtless, his back scrawled with graffiti, but the word ni–er in red is clearly discernable. I guess this was his clever idea of a Halloween costume. He is a student at the St. Paul’s’ School in Brooklandville, Md.
All of these young people were partying recently (not on the campuses of any of the schools mentioned), celebrating Halloween, dehumanizing Black people, who were the brunt of their twisted, racist humor.
On background, I received internal communications from two of the schools, Gilman and the Roland Park Country School. Both, Caroline Blatti, the head of Roland Park Country School and Henry P.A. Smyth, the headmaster at Gilman outlined in detail the offenses of their students, as well their school’s, “commitment to promote inclusivity…and to foster a diverse and inclusive community that treats others with mutual trust, respect and empathy.” The schools say they are still investigating the incidents and ascertaining possible disciplinary measures. Both heads of school claim that an unknown third party, not affiliated with their schools, added racist captions to the pictures.
St. Paul’s School sent the AFRO the following statement in response to the racist Hallowen incident:
“St. Paul’s School does not tolerate any form of hate or discrimination. The School is investigating an incident that occurred off campus and outside of school hours, and will take the necessary and appropriate steps. Privacy policies do not permit us to provide any further information. We remain committed to fostering an inclusive community whose members respect themselves and one another.”
Christopher Post, headmaster at Boys’ Latin sent the following response to their alumni and families:
“Over the weekend, Boys’ Latin was identified in connection with a series of images on social media that contained inflammatory language and depicted individuals in costumes, wearing clothing that imitates that worn by inmates in prison. One of these individuals had the name ‘Freddie Gray’ displayed across his back and was identified as a BL alumnus.
I am deeply troubled that an individual would choose to act in this way, and I am so sorry for any hurt or pain that these actions have caused. Boys’ Latin denounces the insensitivity and intolerance depicted by these images. In no way, shape or form will Boys’ Latin support or tolerate actions or behaviors that demean or belittle another person, a group of individuals, or the suffering that one may endure.”
Simple question, what the hell is wrong with these kids? The most convenient one syllable answer: Trump.
Although many argue the 45th president has added gasoline to an already raging inferno of racial intolerance in America, he certainly didn’t start the fire. And White kids didn’t just start dressing up like “ni–ers” for Halloween after Trump entered the White House.
I remember reporting on a story in October 2006, when students at Johns Hopkins University, specifically from the Sigma Chi fraternity, were suspended for hosting a, “Halloween in the Hood.” Revelers were encouraged to dress in “regional clothing,” for example, “bling bling ice ice grills,” and “hoochie hoops.” There was also a skeleton dangling from a rope at this particular party. I can cite many more examples of this kind of stupidity.
Some people I’ve talked to seem genuinely shocked that White boys and White girls from some of the state’s most prestigious private schools got busted for acting like little Klansmen and Nazis. I don’t understand why they are so shocked.
Again, Trump didn’t create the peculiar and ubiquitous American system of White supremacy (although he has worked prodigiously in a short period of time to help it thrive).
But, if Trump can masquerade as the leader of the free world, why can’t rich, White, privileged, private school kids dress up like so-called “ni–ers,” for Halloween?
Happy Halloween Black people.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore Editor, and host and executive producer of The AFRO First Edition w/Sean Yoes on the AFRO’s Facebook page.