‘YMCA’ act too racist for Fargo first-graders

There’ll be none of this at the Bennett Elementary School in Fargo.

The first-graders were supposed to dress up as a policeman, a cowboy, a biker dude, a construction worker or a Native American to perform the song “YMCA” during a talent show.

But, the Fargo Forum reports, the idea has been scrapped because of a complaint that it’s racist.

But one mom, Elaine Bolman, said asking her daughter and her classmates to dress up like an Indian is offensive.

“I’m not in a position to do anything for these educators, and hopefully those people that are can make the right choices so all students of any culture and race won’t feel singled out or like their race is being stereotyped against,” Bolman said.

Can’t we just teach kids the Chicken Dance?

  • Dave

    I’m a Lego collector and a while ago I ran across this set from 1977, called Red Indians:

    http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/215-1

    I thought, wow, they couldn’t make that today. But then I found this set from 2002:

    http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/6763-1

    Were the Village People really being racist when one of them dressed up like an Indian? Is stereotyping the same thing as racism?

  • Joe

    We can’t teach kids the chicken dance, that might lead to aleerin’.

  • Diane

    Good Call Mom! This is definitely not one of those “Oh please, let’s have a sense of humor” moments. Perpetuating 35 year old racist images is not art. It bothered people back then, but few spoke out. Times do need to change.

    • Jerry

      It was racist for a Native American to dress as a Native American to honour his own heritage? That seems to make it more of a Fighting Irish situation then a Redskins one.

      • Diane

        That only works if the situation is tightly controlled so that only native american kids get to dress as an “Indian” AND Rose’s use of the regalia is explained (which would entail how he suggested that the other gay members of the group dress in manly occupational uniforms). I was a Camp Fire Girl in the ’60s and had the usual ceremonial regalia for our council fires based on N.E. woodland nations’ dress which I loved. We were taught respectful honoring of Native American practices by elders that were associated with our group (probably a rarity) but I would still NEVER think that would be OK in today’s pluralistic society. No, I don’t think we have lost anything by not being able to appropriate others’ culture for our entertainment, no mater how well-intentioned we were.

  • bp

    And if you look at the lyrics closely, how many parents are aware that their first graders would be singing about the NYC Y as a gay pickup spot in the 70’s?

    • I’m telling you, you don’t have that problem with the Chicken Dance!

      • Diane

        We used to do the “the Wiggle Walk” square dance. Also quite a hoot!

    • Joe

      Maybe it is you who has an innate need to look at the lyrics closely in that way?

      • bp

        It’s not me: From the Wikipedia entry on the Village People:

        “The band’s name references New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, at the time known for having a substantial gay population.[5] Morali and Belolo got the inspiration for creating an assembly of American manarchetypes based on the gay men of The Village who frequently dressed in various fantasy attire.”

        And from the entry on the history of the song itself:

        “In gay culture from which the group sprang, the song was implicitly understood as celebrating the YMCA’s reputation as a popular cruising and hookup spot, particularly for the younger gay men to whom it was addressed.[10]”

        • Joe

          Then clearly it must be a statement about societal views (i.e. Wikipedia, or Man’s Lastest Editor) of gay culture at the time in New York City, one which is a relic of the Stonewall era.

      • Diane

        Heck, “everybody” old enough to have heard it “back in the day” knows it is about cruising at the Y. In fact, before it took on a life of it’s own, YMCA forbid the singing of it at camp (I worked for the Y at the time – That mandate came from the national organization). Now it is just a song to get people up out of their seats, but “back in the day” it was very controversial.

  • SRM

    There are 2 people with the name Elaine Bolman (the parent who complained) in North Dakota (according to White Pages). One lives in New Town, on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and one in Fargo. The age of the one in Fargo matches graduation records from the Standing Rock area, and it is likely this parent is herself a tribal member. So even though the original character was half Lakota and was fine with the costume, this parent is also likely Lakota and objected. So much for people being regarded as spokespersons for their race. This comes at a time when there have been four very recent area controversies regarding the depiction of the Sioux: a former state official was required to remove a Fighting Sioux banner (the now-terminated team name for UND) from his private suite at the Final Four hockey tournament. The same week, a sorority at UND displayed a sign “they can take away our motto, but they can’t take away our spirit”–I think, but don’t exactly recall, that it portrayed the Sioux logo. The same sorority had been disciplined in the past for a “cowboys and Indians” party. Also the same week, which was Time Out Week at UND and features UND Indian Association events, a Native American dressed in traditional garb for an event, accompanied by his little girl, was greeted with boos and “war whoops” by a fraternity. The man later approached the fraternity by himself, resulting in moving apologies by the fraternity and public actions on their part to both apologize and reconcile. This was followed by the Siouxper Drunk t-shirt episode. People who complain about other people being “over-sensitive” have been all over regular media and social media making donkeys of themselves.

  • TERESA DUSH

    Is there no body out there with a small amount of common sense?