During a brief period of incarceration when I was 12 years old, I learned some valuable life lessons. I was serving three days of in-school suspension for a locker-room fracas that broke out when I punched a classmate who called me a racial slur because I had secured the co-starring role in our junior high production of Huckleberry Finn.
During my time in the hole, I found out that he called me “Nigger Mike” because the character I played was actually named “Nigger Jim.” However, the theater teacher and play director had wisely decided to nix the n-word from the script. But when I broke the news to my mother, she was curiously calm about me being locked up north (the in-school-suspension room was on the north side of the cafeteria building), explaining:
“Some people need punching.”
A few parents at an Arizona high school expressed those same sentiments last week when they went to see their children perform in a high school play and were confronted by students dressed in full Ku Klux Klan uniforms.
According to ABC15, three students at ASU Preparatory Phoenix High in Phoenix, Ariz. shocked parents and students by popping up in Klan costumes during a performance of “The Foreigner,” which I assume is not about the 1980's rock band who made “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
“Three students dressed as the KKK walked down the middle of the assembly as part of a play,” explained one parent, who wanted to remain anonymous at his daughter’s request. “They were in hooded robes.”
The Klansmen are part of the scripted, comedy play but this parent says the characters could have easily been portrayed without ‘full regalia.’
“We can talk about racial prejudice, we can talk about the insensitivity, but to have our children put on the robes and assume the characters, it’s wrong... There is no justification for it.”
The school did not notify parents or the audience about the uniforms before the play, angering many parents and probably leaving others confused about how a drama production turned into a Trump rally.
After word of the production spread, the school realized that the presentation might have been a bad idea, while I have a few other questions.
The school eventually issued an apology in a statement that read, in part:
Last Friday, high school students in a drama class at ASU Preparatory Academy in downtown Phoenix staged a production of noted American playwright Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner.” The presentation of the play was done during the capstone period of the school day. Students in the class read several plays early in the fall and chose to perform “The Foreigner.” The play portrays an image of members of Klansmen in a brief scene toward the end in which they are made fun of and driven away.
We apologize if anyone was caught by surprise with the appearance of these characters. We are confident that a fair reading of the text of the play, and a fair interpretation of the intentions of students who performed it, reveals no endorsement of bigotry.
While the school did not say whether anyone was disciplined, maybe someone at ASU Prep should consult my junior high drama coach, Ms. McDonald... or get punched in the face.
That’s what would have occurred if this happened when I was serving time behind bars (the in-school suspension was directly behind the lunchroom’s salad bar).