Target: Redlands Unified School District Lori Rhodes
Goal: Dismiss principal for vocal support of cheerleaders who dressed up as Hispanic “ganstas.”
Cheerleaders who dressed up as racist caricatures of Hispanic gang members earlier this year were praised for their “strength and courage” by Redlands, California high school principal John Maloney during a recent graduation ceremony, according to reports. Demand that Maloney be dismissed from his post for his willful encouragement of racism.
Controversy erupted earlier this year after photos of the Redlands East Valley High cheerleading team’s annual “Gangsta Day”—an event that had been taking place since at least 2010—were made public. The photos show cheerleaders dressing up in stereotypical Hispanic gang member costume, including doo-rags, baggy jeans, and heavy makeup, and flashing gang signs and putting basketballs under their shirts to appear pregnant. Many thought the debacle was over after the school district investigated and suspended the high school’s cheerleading program following the incident.
That optimism seems to have been premature, however. At Redlands East Valley High’s graduation ceremony, Principal Maloney reportedly dismissed the whole controversy as overblown and praised the actions of the cheerleaders. “These are high school kids,” he said. “We don’t care about what is happening in Congress but we care about a of couple cheerleaders dressing up. I admire those girls for their strength and courage.”
Racist caricatures should not be encouraged by anyone, much less by an administrator of a school whose student body identifies at around 40 percent Hispanic or Latina/Latino. Sign the petition below to demand that Principal Maloney be dismissed for his refusal to take a strong stand against racism in his school.
Dear Superintendent Rhodes,
I am writing you today regarding John Maloney, the principal of Redlands East Valley High. His reported comments at the school’s recent graduation ceremony were incredibly oblivious and betray a casual racism that is unbecoming for any high school principal.
Despite what Maloney seems to think, the actions of these cheerleaders cannot be so easily dismissed. The fact that many Hispanic and Latina/Latino families in the crowd at the graduation were made uncomfortable or were outright offended by his comments should be clear evidence of that.
Suggesting, as Maloney did, that the actions of these cheerleaders weren’t that big a deal because of a line of reasoning akin to “high schoolers will be high schoolers” is a fallacy that, like the age old “boys will be boys,” is used to dismiss and minimize legitimate critique of problematic behaviors and maintain a system of racist and patriarchal oppression. We cannot fight oppression and achieve a more just society if we don’t hold ourselves—even high school students—to higher standards.
Your own defense of him and his comments is unfortunate, but it’s not too late to send a loud and clear message that your district will not tolerate even casual displays of racism and white supremacy. I demand that you fire Maloney at once for his apologist rhetoric and disturbing willingness to look past racism on the part of his students.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Tomas Castelazo