A New York high school's pep rally was marred by a controversial skit featuring white students wearing blackface and satirizing domestic violence.
The Waverly High School pep rally showcased a skit performed by three white male students wearing blackface, or make-up to make them appear black. The students re-enacted a 2009 domestic abuse incident when singer Chris Brown assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna. The skit was performed as part of the annual competition for the title of "Mr. Waverly" and is being called racist by critics.
News of the skit was first reported on iReport, CNN's citizen journalism platform. CNN iReport contributor Matthew Dishler explains:
At the most resent Pep Rally for Waverly High School, located in Waverly NY, the usual fanfare of cheering for the home team to get them ready was in full swing. As the rally progressed you had your usual cheers and rally cries for the fall sports teams and the football team. It seemed to have done well, with Waverly defeating their opponent 70-21. But what happened at that pep rally went much farther than simple cheers. Three white students were to perform a skit in black face, depicting Chris Brown and Rhianna most notibly. In this skit they would display acts of domestic violence as satire to an audience that included not only students but parents, faculty, and various members of the media and community leaders. None of them stopped the skit.
A CNN editor's note states that Dishler was not at the pep rally, but heard of the skit from multiple people and saw photos of it shared on Facebook.
“I can testify there’s not a lot of racial diversity in that school whatsoever. We’re not really exposed to that at that school,” Dishler told the Star Gazette. “I felt like something should have been done about this. I don’t believe the kids had any vicious intentions, but the administrators should have said that’s not exactly OK.”
Waverly Central School District officials are taking a closer look at what happened at the pep rally, according to The Daily Review. Joseph Yelich, superintendent of the Waverly Central School District, said that administrators will meet Tuesday regarding the controversial pep rally skit.
"The Waverly School District is committed to creating a positive atmosphere through our activities," Yelich told The Daily Review. "I will be working with our building administrators, our staff and our students to examine our current activities and develop future activities consistent with our commitment." Adding, "Ultimately, our administrators are going to need to meet with the whole student body to set clear expectations for our behavior and the impact it has on all people."
A New Hope Center, an Owego-based agency that helps victims of domestic and sexual violence, hate crimes, rape and other abuse, has already been working with the school district on bullying issues, Assistant Director Francis J. Bialy told the Star Gazette. Bialy did not know about Friday's pep rally but said, “If it’s intended to be humorous or putting down people, it further perpetuates permission to engage in such behavior."
Waverly, N.Y., is 72 percent white, according to the 2010 Census. Opinions are split over whether the Chris Brown-Rihanna skit was as controversial as some think.
"I'm sorry, but why the F--- does Waverly High School think that black face is okay!?!? How ignorant do you have to f----- be," tweeted a user from Syracuse. "The Waverly High School Rihanna abuse skit wasn't that racist, BUT it's never ok to make a joke about serious physical abuse," tweeted another.
A similar incident in May led to a student being taken out of the classroom for dressing like Martin Luther King, Jr. and wearing black face paint. The Colorado Springs second-grader put on the costume for a school project, but school officials thought the ensemble was disrespectful, and demanded that the student wash his face.