Target: Carondelet High School Principal Nancy Libby
Goal: Tell high school that disrespecting fellow communities on the basis of race is unacceptable
Fried chicken, watermelon and corn bread – the special menu Carondelet High School planned to prepare in honor of Black History Month. An announcement of the menu over the school’s intercom system justifiably upset faculty and students alike. Carondelet’s principal has issued an apology for “any hurt” the offensive menu “has caused students, parents, or community members,” insisting the school does not wish to “perpetrate racial stereotypes.” The lunch was apparently planned by the Black Student Union, a joint organization between Carondelet and neighboring high school, De La Salle, to honor Black History Month.
Regardless of intent, the damage has been done. The original approval of this racially insensitive plan reflects ignorance and disrespect for African-American history within the Carondelet community. Still, the school has not come forth with a clear explanation of how such an offensive idea passed through its standard planning procedures.
As Americans, we have the responsibility to honor our civil rights leaders not for what they may have eaten, but for their incredible bravery and for their refusal to give up fighting for equal rights, even as they were ridiculed, terrorized, beaten, and killed. These individuals stood up to injustice in spite of all the hatred and persecution they endured. They gave their lives so that all Americans could have equal rights. To forget that history, or worse, to degrade it, represents an egregious injustice.
Dear Principal Libby,
I am writing in regards to your high school’s planned menu in honor of Black History Month. As you have stated, Carondelet High School had no intention of stereotyping fellow community members based on their race, and the diversity assembly you have agreed to hold was aimed at responding to the concerns of upset students, faculty, and the wider Carondelet community.
Nonetheless, the incident presents real cause for concern. That such a racially insensitive plan could even make its way out of the brainstorming stages reflects a serious ignorance and even worse, an utter disrespect for African-American history within the Carondelet community. In reducing the African-American community to fried chicken, watermelon, and corn bread, you as an educational institution have set a poor example to your students. How can we even consider honoring the legacy of our civil rights leaders based on what they may have eaten? We have the responsibility to honor these individuals for standing up to injustice when no one else would, for giving up their lives so that all Americans could have equal rights.
I urge you to take this opportunity to do better. More than just discussing diversity, I hope you choose to put it into practice. Ensuring that curricula reflects a complete history of our nation and tightening school-wide procedures for the planning of racially sensitive activities in particular are crucial first steps. I encourage you to make of this situation a teaching moment. Your leadership is essential in making this incident the last of its kind.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons