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Lawrenceville School forces student body president to resign over photo: Racist or satirical?

Maya Peterson via Instagram
Maya Peterson via Instagram

A story came out last week over a photo that the student body president of the prestigious Lawrenceville School had placed on her Instagram account – mocking a portion of her white male classmates.
This in turn set off a firestorm leading to her resignation as student body president.

In it, Maya Peterson donned a Yale sweatshirt, LL Bean boots and a hockey stick, snapped a photo of herself, and placed it on her Instagram account depicting what she described as a typical “Lawrenceville boi”: white, Republican, and cockily holding a hockey stick.
Peterson, who graduated in June, added hashtags like “#romney2016,” “#confederate,” and “#peakedinhighschool” before posting.

When she was taken to task by some of her classmates, her response was:

“Yes, I am making a mockery of the right-wing, confederate-flag hanging, openly misogynistic Lawrentians,” Peterson responded. “If that’s a large portion of the school’s male population, then I think the issue is not with my bringing attention to it in a lighthearted way, but rather why no one has brought attention to it before…”

The situation came to a head when members of the administration told her she’d have to resign her post as president – which she did.

One member of the administration pointed out that Lawrenceville’s policy of inclusion would not tolerate such behavior. Oddly enough, it was that policy of inclusion which led to her election as student president, as she was able to cobble together a coalition of underclassmen and minorities.

Since having been elected to the post, she’d been a lightning rod for controversy – which eventually led her to post the photo some have deemed offensive.

Upon resigning she said,

“I’m not saying what I did was right,” she said. “But it wasn’t racist. I was just calling those guys exactly what they are. And Lawrenceville is the type of place where those kids are idolized.”

Well, once you bring up the subject of race, whether it’s whites offending blacks or the other way around, someone always enters the fray.

In this case it’s the New York Civil Rights Coalition, whose director, Michael Meyers took the school to task for what they say was Peterson’s expression of free speech.

According to this, Meyers wrote:

“The mission and values of Lawrenceville, I thought, supported broad diversity and tolerance of different viewpoints. That kind of tolerance, and the commitment to answering — as opposed to shutting down and punishing — foolish or errant viewpoints, is what makes a school distinguished,” Meyers wrote. “No student who uses mockery or who tells ‘tasteless’ jokes, in an effort to make a political point, should be subjected by school officials to disciplinary proceedings or be bullied into resignation from a student office or be intimidated into silence.”

Actually, at first glance, I thought the picture and the description was funny.

But then it occurred to me that were the situation reversed – white student body president mocking a black majority with stereotypical garb and props – it would have been met with outrage by members of the offended groups – and probably the media as well.

Is there any room for anyone to mock ethnic and racial stereotypes in this country without there being a sense of outrage? In this age of “enlightenment” – we’re going backwards.

Maya Peterson should have been able to express herself as she saw fit – but the double standard needs to go.

Was the student body president of the Lawrenceville School being racist or just rude in her Instagram photo?

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