I don’t know about you all, but I used to really get into class presentations when I was in school. I’m talking about bringing in a white sheet and pretending it was an invisibility cloak during my Harry Potter book presentation I did in 7th grade. But, boy, have times changed. Students may still use white sheets in their English presentations, but apparently they are now used to represent the Ku Klux Klan and not just a cloak.
Last week, a student at Westosha Central High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, caused an outrage by dressing up as a KKK member while giving a presentation in his class. The arguments for this kid donning attire representing a racist, terrorist organization were fierce and surprisingly prevalent. They boiled down to the need to accurately portray history and that the outrage exhibited towards this kid is akin to PC censorship.
That’s all fine and dandy, but let’s get one thing straight here. This kid was not even in any history classes. He did this presentation in an English class on ‘Crime in the 1920s.’ I know history intersects with English literature quite often, but if the kid wasn’t even in a history class, how the hell does this history argument even hold water? Not only this, but why when the Klan is involved is the only time that these people are concerned with accurately portraying history? This accuracy argument could be taken a lot more seriously if not for the countless instances of certain people wanting to use examples of racism, subjugation and imperialism to teach students about American history and being met with arguments about the liberal agenda in education and the history curricula being too unfair and biased against America.
Once again, it’s about downplaying the past without really addressing what went on in the past. They can afford to dismiss these concerns because they aren’t affected by them. Because they can afford to do this, and it stands to benefit them to keep the status quo, I can see the reasoning behind the outrage over the outrage. Still though, let’s take a step back and analyze what is actually happening here. There are people, in the year 2016, who are saying that a kid should be able to dress up as a Ku Klux Klan member. Not only this, but they also say that we should all be okay with him doing this. In what world is wearing a KKK costume okay? It shouldn’t matter what purpose the kid was wearing it for. I don’t care if the kid wore it while he fed sandwiches to the homeless. The actions of the kid to wear it — and of the adults who downplay the severity of this fiasco in order to make excuses for him — are all-around incredibly problematic.
One hypothetical for why people are so fervently defending this boy is because he’s from a suburban community and goes to a suburban high school. Essentially, he could be one of their kids or he could be friends with one of their kids. They probably could picture the kid coming into their house with their kid and pouring them all up some Sunny Delight after a long afternoon rollerblading or something. I’m not sure if kids still rollerblade, but the point still stands that they held sympathy for the kid.
What they don’t realize though is that this sympathy comes at the expense of others, and signals a cavalier attitude towards racism in this country, something that a lot of people still experience on a daily basis. This kid can get protection and support for doing something that many feel is completely wrong just because people are tired of hearing about it. The fact that outrage over a kid wearing the uniform of an organization that has mercilessly murdered men, women and children for decades due to their skin color is attributed to people being too sensitive shows us that at it’s worst, this situation points to an endorsement of subjugation and racism by these people. They control all sides of the conversation when it comes to what is being presented. The fact that what is being presented inside and outside the classroom tries to dismiss the concerns people have with racism and exists to show whites in a favorable light, signals that this incident and response of people to defend this kid display the very textbook definition of white supremacy.
Don’t believe me? Okay. Let’s replace Westosha Central with Casimir Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, my alma mater. Let’s also replace ‘crime in the 1920s’ with ‘crime in the 1940s’. Do you really think these people defending this kid would feel the same way about some inner-city minority kid wearing an SS/Nazi uniform? I didn’t think so. Those defending this kid want to stress the importance of historical accuracy and then in the same breath claim that history is irrelevant when it shows their heroes in a negative light and affects people other than them. They want to be able to have their white supremacy cake and eat it, too.
But I say no. It’s time to switch up that same old recipe and put some respect, common sense and justice in there so that this state and this nation can start to heal and become places where all are cognizant of the tremendous pain the past has brought forth.