Everyone can see how it is a poor choice for a squad of cheerleaders to dress up in “gangster” costumes with pregnancy bellies, fake tattoos and gang signs. Well, nearly everyone.
The cheerleaders dressed up as Latino “gangsters” for “Gangsta Day” as part of a team-building exercise, though how that was approved or how it builds teamwork is a mystery. Pictures from the event made the rounds on social media and people reacted with the levels of shock and anger that are called for given the situation. The cheerleading program was suspended and the advisor who signed off on the activity was fired.
However, the incident returned in a profoundly confusing way for graduation this week. The principal of Redlands East Valley High School said he was proud of the “strength and courage” of the cheerleaders who were criticized for their racist costumes.
According to Redlands Daily Facts, Principal John Maloney said during the graduation, “We don’t care about what is happening in Congress but we care about a couple of cheerleaders dressing up. I admire those girls for their strength and courage.”
As would be expected, many in the crowd watching the graduation were not pleased. “My child went to graduation to celebrate her friend’s accomplishments and instead got a lesson in reinforcing institutional racism,” said Aja Henriquez in an email to the Redlands Daily Facts. “The principal’s comments about the racist cheerleaders simply being ‘normal high school’ behavior is the only thing she remembered about the event when she came home, along with laughter and silence that followed along racial lines in the crowd.
The Redlands Unified Superintendent released a statement, saying that the principal did not mean to minimize the incident, but to praise who the school pulled together under media scrutiny.
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