Oklahoma City's school superintendent has apologized after a cardboard photo frame emblazoned with watermelons was used at a high school's Black History Month event celebrating soul food.
The oversized frame that attendees could hold while posing for photos was used during the Feb. 20 soul food lunch at Frederick A. Douglass High School, The Oklahoman reported. African Americans have long been subjected to a racist stereotype that they have a particular fondness for watermelon.
Sean McDaniel, the superintendent for Oklahoma City Public Schools, said Thursday that the prop was “inappropriate and hurtful.”
“On behalf of the board and district leadership, I sincerely apologize for this and any other incident that has devalued any member of the OKCPS family,” McDaniel said. “Going forward and without compromise, our learning and work environments will recognize, respect, and value all people."
The frame was removed from the event after an administrator saw it, a district spokeswoman said.
Ruth Veales, who is one of two black members of the city's school board, said she learned of the photo prop when complaints surfaced on social media.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
“People may say there was no intent,” Veales said. “We have to take ownership of what it is that we do.”
McDaniel said the photo frame was especially harmful given other recent events in the state. At the University of Oklahoma, students were staging a sit-in Friday outside the university president's office after two professors used racial slurs in class.
And in Newkirk, a small city about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City, a high school basketball announcer was removed from the game last week after referring to the names of Crooked Oak High School players as “pretty disgusting.” Crooked Oak High School, in Oklahoma City, has a student population that is 90% Hispanic or black.
“It is my expectation that all people in our district are valued and that we operate in a culture of mutual respect,” McDaniel said.
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