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Racist Acts at Poly Prep Prompts Media Attention

Poly Prep Country Day School, the elite Brooklyn school, has recently come under fire from the media for acts of racism that might not have been seen as a problem ten years ago.

The inciting incident to this media feeding frenzy happened about three years ago. Two Poly Prep students were recorded by their friend jumping and squealing like monkeys with black face on. One of the students was expelled, but the other two remain.

Black face is a relic from America’s heinous past, one that our country has spent decades trying to put behind us, and to see 11-year-old children put it on for any reason is concerning. The six-second video went around, but did not get much attention until recently when big name publications such as the Daily News and New York Times weighed in. The story has been circulating so much that even Mayor Bill De Blasio tweeted about it saying, “Poly Prep has some real explaining to do. And what’s absolutely clear is that a conversation about racism at the school is long overdue.” One thing of note about this media coverage is that it often puts emphasis on the lack of diversity at the school. The Daily News described the school as “an elite, private institution that was founded as an all-male, all-white enclave in 1854,” which is very specific. Mayor De Blasio’s tweet also places the blame on the school.

While skepticism of accusations like this is always healthy, Poly Prep might actually have some bad apples among their higher ups. Recently, staff members of the school found that someone had sprayed swastikas and racial slurs all over the windows of their student center. No one was expelled for this. While this lack of justice is not a malicious thing in itself, several publications pointed out the recent expulsion of a black student over stealing. While theft can be a very serious thing, the kid didn’t pay for a rice krispy treat and accidently took another kid’s jacket. The idea was that these white students were punished so lightly while this black student was punished so harshly. It would be like if City and Country suspended students for taking pencils. This theft situation sounds like a thing that would be worked out with the student and the school. The kid brings the jacket back, and gets suspended for maybe a couple days. Expulsion is when a student is seen as unfit or dangerous to the students and faculty of the school, and what this kid did is in no way dangerous.

Contrast the theft situation with City and Country, who’s biggest scandals over the years have been not nearly as inappropriate. Poly Prep is being permeated by a particularly poisonous power structure that disproportionately punishes pupils. Prejudice at an administrative level is near impossible to fix, and can manifest in undetectable ways. While C&C most likely does not have a problem with racism, it is important for school’s to have administrative transparency. At City and Country, the higher ups are very friendly and don’t try to intimidate students. It seems that Poly Prep takes a more corporate and inhuman approach to punishment, especially now that the media is looking.

It is not wise to throw around words like “racist,” but there is some pretty serious evidence that Poly Prep, in the words of Mayor De Blasio, “Has some serious explaining to do.”


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