Students Suspended for ‘Picking Cotton’ Promposal That Family Says Was ‘Inside Joke’

Jon Aro via Twitter
Jon Aro via Twitter

Two white South Florida high school students have been suspended after a photo of a racist promposal went viral.

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You know the one, where they’re standing on either side of a black student with a sign that read, “You may be picking cotton but we’re picking you to go to prom with us.”

The girls apologized through their parents, WPLG reports, with one father telling the news station that it was an inside joke made to the black student, who was originally not going to prom. The black student is a friend of the other two and is home-schooled; she is actually the heir to her grandmother’s cotton farm in Alabama—hence the “joke.”

Right.

One of the fathers said that he understands the controversy over the sign and why it may appear to be racist, but he said that there was no malicious intent behind the sign and that now the girls are afraid to go to their prom.

“They really want to apologize for their extremely poor choice of words in this situation,” said a father of another student. “They would like to take it back. They would like to find a different way to express this invitation to prom.”

The girls, who attend Monarch High School, have been suspended pending the completion of an investigation into the incident.

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“Broward County Public Schools is proud of its diverse student population and community,” district spokeswoman Tracy Clark said. “Our district is committed to providing learning environments that foster inclusion and respect.”

The other father said that he hopes everyone hears the “true” story.

“There have been consequences,” he said. “We understand the reality of that, but the girls really want people to know what the truth is behind this.”

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But I’m interested in your thoughts, people. Do these new facts change your perception of the promposal? Is the joke more acceptable because the black student is actually the heir to a cotton farm? Or is this just all kinds of nopes for you?

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Read more at WPLG.

DISCUSSION

By
Ororo Munroe

What a lot of people defending this need to realise is that black students, especially in areas where there are few of them, will let these jokes slide or even participate in them, claiming it’s all in good fun, and they’re not bothered. In reality, we feel compelled to go along with the joke and “not cause a scene”, so even if the jokes make us feel some type of way, you convince yourself it’s not malicious, remind yourself that your friends aren’t being mean, and move on with it. Otherwise, if you do start to cause a stink over it, you’re the black kid that is “sensitive”, can’t take a joke, sees racism everywhere, etc. Sometimes, the fear of being ostracized will override any discomfort you feel over these comments.

My friends and I definitely shared racist jokes to “be funny”, because we were dumb high schoolers who confused “edgy” with comedy. Most of my friends are white, and they definitely threw some black jokes my way. Most did not sit well with me, but I never spoke up about it.

If someone repeated those jokes to me today, there would be hell to pay. But sometimes it takes growing up, or other major changes (e.g. being exposed to a new environment) to look back and say, “That was not okay at all”.

So don’t use “it’s a joke they’re all in on”” as an excuse. There’s a good chance that a few years down the road, they’ll realize that joking about your black friend picking cotton, even if she’s the heir to a farm, is a shitty joke.