I was shocked to see in the paper this weekend a story about two schools in Georgia where students dressed as KKK members last week to do historical re-enactments.
“Four white students dressed like Ku Klux Klansmen walked through the cafeteria last week at Lumpkin County High School, heading to a class project on racism and walking straight into news reports around the world….”
“But when a similar scene unfolded in a Gwinnett County middle school last week, when the students wearing the Klan outfits were African-American, as was their teacher, the story changed….”
“The incident in Lumpkin County in North Georgia deeply upset at least two students at Lumpkin County High, leading to a community meeting held by an activist and also a private meeting between community leaders, clergy and school administrators. The high school teacher, Catherine Ariemma, who is white, was investigated and is back on the job.”
“The incident at Gwinnett’s Sweetwater Middle School, which is predominantly Hispanic and African-American, has drawn little outrage from the community and no meetings. Some interpret this a positive sign, that such historical symbols are becoming a little less potent.”
While I can appreciate the effectiveness of visual teaching, I just personally think that the KKK robes are way too threatening of an image to be appropriate in a school setting. (Maybe in college but certainly not in high school or middle school!)
There are signs up throughout our schools about bullying and threatening behaviors and I think the sight alone of those robes is so menacing I can’t imagine how administrators would think they could be appropriate. (In fact new anti-school bully legislation was just signed by the governor.)
Growing up in Gwinnett, I can remember in the 1980s seeing KKK members in their robes marching through downtown Lawrenceville on just a regular old Saturday. It was shocking and scary just driving by it much less to see it in your school.
I also recall when the first African-American girl started at my Gwinnett High School (I was still in middle school but my brother was there) that the KKK came and protested across from the high school. They also set fire to her lawn at home to the best of my recollection. (It was 20 years ago but that’s what I remember.)
I am totally fine with schools talking about the KKK’s intimidation tactics. And I wouldn’t even mind in high school showing footage of their old protests but seeing it on a screen is far less threatening that having the robes parading through the halls of your school.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe since these young people probably haven’t seen KKK openly protesting maybe it wouldn’t send a chill through them. But had I been visiting those either of those schools, it would have upset me tremendously!
I understand the idea of using a word or image to take it back — to make it less scary. But I’m just not sure it’s possible with those white robes – especially not for children.
What do you think: Do you think it’s appropriate for schools to allow children to wear KKK robes for historical re-enactments? What age could this be appropriate? Would wearing the robes teach it better than just talking or showing actual news footage from KKK events?