Officials at a predominantly-white school in Indiana are apologizing after students wore racist costumes to a recent basketball game because they were instructed to dress in all black for school spirit.
The Associated Press on Monday reported that New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. officials had promised to write a letter to Parkview Middle School expressing regret for the costumes.
According to the News and Tribune, Highland Hills Middle School students were encouraged to create a “blackout” by wearing all black to the game against Parkview Middle School earlier this month. The Highland Hills team was mostly white, while Parkview had a number of African-American players.
At a Tuesday meeting with the New Albany Chapter of the NAACP, New Albany-Floyd administrators apologized to parents and students from Parkview and promised to follow up with a formal letter.
“There were more than three masks, it seemed like a whole cheering section right in back of our basketball team that either had on black nylon masks, they had on Obama masks and a bunch of gorillas and monkeys,” Lisa Barnett, who is a parent of one of the Parkview players, recalled during the meeting. “I couldn’t focus on the game because of these masks behind our boys.”
Highland Hills assistant superintendent Bill Briscoe said that the school could have done a better job responding to the concerns of parents.
“I’ll say this — what happened was wrong, it was offensive and we know it was hurtful to people,” he insisted. “We hope that the three kids and their parents learned from this. This is a teaching situation.”
Parkview parent Mary Thomas pointed out that many white people did not appreciate what it was like to experience racism.
“It really doesn’t sit well with me,” she remarked. “Most white people do not realize what it’s like to be black, honestly. We know there’s very few blacks that attend the school, but they see it. Our president is black. And I don’t understand why a student was wearing a Barack Obama mask.”
“It is no secret that it has been in the past that African Americans are referred to as gorillas or anything, monkeys and what have you,” New Albany NAACP president Nicole Yates explained. “And so it was offensive and it was offensive to a lot of people, a lot of parents. We know that Parkview in Jeffersonville has a great deal of African American students there.”