Washburn High parent concerned black doll incident could lead to racial violence [INTERVIEW]

Categories: Education, Racism
washburn racial incident.jpeg
Ralph Crowder is concerned about the way school administration responded to the incident and the punishments the students involved received.
For Ralph Crowder, parent of a African-American sophomore at Washburn High School in South Minneapolis, the black doll incident we told you about yesterday is as much about school security as it is about race.

SEE ALSO: Duluth roiled by two recent blackface incidents [VIDEO]

"I just want the standard of discipline to be applied evenly based on this serious event," Crowder said during a conversation with City Pages today. "What I fear is that if this isn't dealt with right, you are going to return these kids back to a school that is suffering from some serious emotional trauma, and you're going to set up teenagers to react emotionally on an issue they feel passionate about and somebody might be affected by some violence."

Crowder said it's his understanding that four white students were suspended for four days each in accordance with the incident. But is that enough? (WCCO reports that in addition to the suspensions, one student was expelled, though the punishments haven't been publicly disclosed by the school.)

"I would think the kids who conducted this incident should be treated just like an African-American student who may have been smoking weed on school property and got expelled for it," Crowder said.

Crowder also expressed concern about the fact school administration didn't acknowledge the incident until Wendesday -- five days after the black doll was found hanging from a noose in a Washburn stairwell.

That parents "didn't get acknowledged until Wednesday via an email statement is very troubling for an incident so serious as this," he said.

Crowder said his son, like most of his peers, heard about the incident "through the grapevine of student talk, not through a properly organized discussion by school leadership." But he said it's his sense that a good proportion students at Washburn, which is 46 percent white and 27 percent black (the student population was majority black just five years ago, according to the Star Tribune), don't understand the historical significance behind images like black dolls hanging from nooses.

The incident reflects "a lack of understanding of each other's humanity," Crowder said. "To be totally honest, I think a lot of our children, because they have a disconnect from the historical significance, I think a lot of our student community takes something like this very lightly, and that's why I think this is an opportunity for Washburn, a window of opportunity to really have a real discussion."

Crowder said he and other concerned parents are planning a press conference for Monday where they'll discuss "objectives" in advance of Tuesday's school board meeting.

Meanwhile, Maggie Cramer, a senior at Washburn, sent an email to City Pages expressing irritation that "the whole school is getting blamed and stereotyped because of the actions of a few ignorant individuals."

"The miniscule number of students who cause these problems... remain few and far in between from each other," she added.

And Crowder, for his part, said he "has nothing but positive things to say about the teaching staff I've interacted with," though he added that "there are some challenges that I see on the flipside with the administration and their leadership."

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I could not agree with Ms. Cramer more. It is very sad that 1) this type of thing goes on in private schools, suburban schools etc.. and yet, Washburn always seems to hit the news??? 2) Many of the great students (of all colors)  at Washburn were very upset by this incident. My son included. Every school out there has some bad apples and Washburn is no different, yet the media, and some parents, are implying that racism is a huge issue at Washburn. This is simply not true. The vast majority of the students are wonderful and caring kids. Washburn has improved in so many ways in the past 5 years, why is the media not covering that? Do not let a few ignorant students reflect on the whole student body. I would love to see us focus more on all that is good, and all the great kids that attend Washburn and stop letting a few bad apples spoil the spirit of an overall respectful and awesome school community. This was a terrible incident, but let's not let it define Washburn. 


I would hope that in addition to the suspension, those kids are required to do a research paper on the civil rights movement and the history of discrimination and oppression of minorities.  This is a perfect time to teach them about the impact of their actions, and hopefully change their attitudes.  


The students each received a four day suspension, but is it enough? For hanging a doll from a ceiling? What punishment would be sufficient? Should the students be branded with an "R" on their foreheads? Whom did these students threaten? What law did they break? A concerned parent said this act "reflects a lack of understanding of each other's humanity." Perhaps it does, but so does virtually every act of bullying occurring in schools that involve real victims - something that it is lacking in this incident. Just another hypocritical overreaction.

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