On Friday, three white students, dressed in blackface, parodied a violent scene meant to depict Chris Brown beating Rihanna at a high school homecoming pep rally. Although faculty members, parents, and community leaders were among those in the audience of the Waverly High School event in Waverly, NY, nobody stopped the performance. Now the school's administration is under fire, as it's been reported that all skits were approved by staff members prior to the pep rally.
Matt Dishler, a 2006 graduate of Waverly, brought the incident—part of the school's annual competition for the "Mr. Waverly" title— to national attention after he posted about it on CNN's iReport on Monday. In the accompanying photo, a male is beating a female on the floor, as students in the audience look on and laugh.
"I can testify there's not a lot of racial diversity in that school whatsoever," Dishler told a local paper on Monday. "I felt like something should have been done about this."
But this is not the first blackface performance at Waverly, a village with a 97 percent white population, according to the 2010 census. According to at least one commenter on CNN's iReport, a white student portrayed Tiger Woods in a sketch at last year's pep rally, but it was "actually very classy." (She was not being ironic; the comment can be viewed at left.)
In fact, the lion's share of the iReport comments—along with students' and alumni's Facebook statuses and tweets—have been in defense of the routine, accusing those who have reacted negatively to the story as being "idiots," "absurd," and "ignorant." Mostly, they seem to be angry at the allegations of racism. And sure, it's true that the students who performed the skit are only kids, and their poor choice of "costume" could perhaps have more to do with ignorance than ill intentions.
So while the racial aspect of the incident is indeed problematic, what is perhaps more troubling is that a group of teenage boys attempted to win a popularity contest (literally) by pretending to beat the crap out of a girl—and nobody seems to care. While everybody is so busy arguing about blackface, very few are even mentioning how fucked up it is that domestic violence was considered, by both students and adults, to be appropriate material for satire.
Pep rallies are supposed to be light-hearted and silly. Boys dress up in cheerleaders' skirts and someone makes a joke about how strict a certain teacher is. Somehow, the severe battery of a woman just doesn't fit into that kind of jovial tone.
The school district's administrators are set to meet Tuesday to discuss the incident. Superintendent Joseph Yelich said in statement:
The Waverly School District is committed to creating a positive atmosphere through our activities. I will be working with our building administrators, our staff and our students to examine our current activities and develop future activities consistent with our commitment.
He did not say whether any specific action would be taken against faculty or students regarding Friday's incident.
High School Pep Rally's Racist Display [CNN]
Blackface Skit About Chris Brown Beating Rihanna At High School Pep Rally [Buzzfeed]
Waverly pep rally skit called racist; students wore blackface, portrayed domestic violence [Press Connects]