History teacher Spencer Smith is creating controversy in the town of Brentwood, California because he chose to dress for his high school yearbook photo as Trayvon Martin, complete with a hoodie and a bag of skittles. The community is split in their reaction.
When yearbooks came out yesterday at Heritage High School, word quickly spread through campus about Smith's picture and by evening the local news was covering his portrait. While Smith hasn't responded to why he chose to dress as Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, if his goal was to bring awareness to the issue his success may be only partial because according to KTVU, most students are just laughing the situation off. And, according to Buzzfeed, at least one student has accused Smith of doing this for attention.
This reaction, however, could be exactly what Smith is pointing to with his photo. The fact that students are able to laugh at his photo and call it ridiculous suggests that many may not be taking the issue of racial inequality and discrimination seriously. In addition, some students' suggestions that Smith should do this kind of thing on his own time or in the privacy of his own home where his photo wouldn't be seen forever suggests how uncomfortable we may be with these kinds of statements in public, even if they do draw attention to important issues. And while I nodded along with the idea that this photo would forever be in the yearbook and could mar the memories students had of high school, I quickly stopped nodding and began to ask myself why it shouldn't be there. I couldn't come up with a good reason other than that it would make someone uncomfortable. If a yearbook is supposed to be a time capsule —many include colorful pages about current events— then wouldn't this photo be an accurate representation of the time we live in?
Not everyone is critical of Smith's photo.
"I think it's a good idea because he's expressing himself. Because that's the whole point of yearbook pictures, you're supposed to express yourself," said Alfreda Charway Heritage High School's Black Student Union President.
But even Charway is perplexed by Smith's decision.
"I don't know what kind of message he was trying to send, but I think he just wanted to draw more attention to it," said Charway.
The school principal is currently investigating the matter. Smith has not yet responded.
Image via KTVU