Students at Chicago-area high school Homewood-Flossmoor walked out of class on Tuesday in protest of students wearing blackface, according to Fox 32 in Chicago.
Homewood-Flossmoor HS students walk out in protest over students wearing blackface. Despite a huge police presence, students took over Kedzie pic.twitter.com/JU2ndzN3sL
— Sarah Schulte (@SchulteABC7) April 30, 2019
Students at Homewood-Flossmoor high school stage walkout after video of classmates in blackface surfaces on social media. Kenzie Ave. closed as students march down street. @nbcchicago
— Chris Hush (@ChrisHushNBC) April 30, 2019
School officials have been embroiled in controversy ever since footage surfaced of four unnamed white students driving around the school's neighborhood donning the offensive garb.
— Victor Howard (@papi_0S0) April 29, 2019
The news outlet reported the offenders in the videos are high school sophomores. Despite the obvious appearance of blackface, some students have claimed their actions aren't offensive. Instead, they allege the boys have plans to join the Army upon graduation and the black paint ended up on their faces in spirit of that decision.
CBS News reports a since-deleted social media post from one student in the video showed him apologizing, insisting he didn't know what blackface was.
Most students aren't buying the excuse and think the man in the video should face consequences for their actions. The Patch reports the school board did not condone the students' actions but it is unclear what repercussions they will face.
"I just feel like they don’t understand the gravity of their actions and that’s something very important," Homewood-Flossmoor senior Jack Johnson said Monday. "They need to understand that's wrong and why, that it offends people even if that wasn’t their intent, they did it and they need to own up to their actions."
Leticia Shelton, a parent, expressed similar sentiments.
"The caucasian children running around in blackface and thinking it's a joke and then you all of a sudden you can't do anything about it and oh, we need to protect them," she wondered. "Are you saying that those at the school are a protected class?"
Blavity spoke with a 2016 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor, who preferred to be identified as "Sa Les," and he revealed that instances of racism have plagued the student body for years. For example, the Black valedictorian of his class was nearly prohibited from graduating after she recited a poem school officials deemed explicit. In 2016, revered author J.K. Rowling stepped in to defend then-student Taiylar Ball against her school barring her from prom for the pro-Black poem, reports The Chicago Tribune.
“Regardless of race, most students did not find the poem to be a problem," he shared. "We felt it was more insightful than anything. We tried to speak on her behalf to the principal didn’t care. The decision had already been made.”
Homewood-Flossmoor is 69% Black, per The Chicago Tribune. In a statement released Sunday, administrators promised to take necessary steps to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
"It is important that our students and community clearly understand that these actions will not be condoned at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and we will continue to take the appropriate and necessary actions to ensure all of our students are respected, feel protected and safe," a portion of the statement read.
Sa Les told Blavity the activism won't stop even after the controversy subsides. Students are also planning an event at the neighborhood library where they'll air their grievances to school board executives and demand justice for the continued disrespect minority scholars have faced.
Hundreds of students took part in the protest and were heard chanting, "We want justice."
As for what white allies can do to help combat the disrespect minority scholars are feeling, Sa Les suggested sticking up for their associates when they face similar situations in the future.
"Definitely just be there for us," he said. "Take action and stand up for the Black students as well. Keeping your friends accountable. The boys at Homewood-Flossmoor called themselves the Cracker Gang, and it soon spread to other groups across the world. Stopping the abuse before it escalates mean you're willing to stick up to your associates even if it means risking your friendships."
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