Klan photo prompts New Prague school to cancel play

The theater kids at New Prague High School have learned an important lesson from the blowback from a social media post: Context matters.

One of them posted a picture of actors in KKK hoods and robes on social media on Friday, inviting people to come to their play, “The Foreigner,” the Star Tribune reports.

The costumes were an important part of the play, representing an evil force. But that wasn’t explained in the posting.

And that’s the problem.

“As we reviewed the social media post and conducted meetings with our theater director and concerned community members, we feel it is in the best interest of New Prague Area Schools to not present the show this weekend,” the school’s principal said in an email to parents.

“Is it disappointing? Yes, I’m disappointed for the kids that invested so much time in the play and performing,” Principal Lonnie Seifert tells WCCO. “But I think we also need to look at the big picture of our students and I’m disappointed some of our students had to go through the feelings that they went through seeing that (social media) post.”

“It makes blacks feel more and more excluded. The administration did take the right step toward inclusiveness by canceling the play,” student Morgan Dawson tells KARE 11.

Some students said the school shouldn’t have canceled the play, one saying the issue was blown out of proportion.

And therein lies the problem in the predominantly white community. Understanding the power of a Klan symbol leads to understanding why a picture of Klan “members” without context could be a problem.

“I do feel bad for the kids who were in the play and the fact that they put in all this hard work,” student Hong Kang said. “Our goal was not to have the play canceled but we are tired of people telling us what we should be offended by and what we shouldn’t be offended by.”

  • Gary F

    So it didn’t become a problem until the week before the performance?

    • The problem wasn’t the play, nor the performance. The problem was the posting of a picture without context.

      • Eric Benson

        Bob, that is what the school is saying, but I don’t think that is entirely true. A different article on this story contains the line:

        “School officials say they will review how they choose plays and make changes if necessary in the future.”

        That says to me that the school did have a problem with the content of the play and the issue was not just about one snapchat photo.

        Source: http://www.fox9.com/news/244332911-story

    • amycrea

      Yes, because of the social media post which showed the KKK out of context of the play.

      • RBHolb

        That, and the caption that made a joking threat that was truly inappropriate.

    • Gary F

      why was my comment edited?

    • “The Foreigner” is a pretty commonly performed play in amateur theater. It’s not the issue.

  • MrE85

    “…we are tired of people telling us what we should be offended by and what we shouldn’t be offended by.” File Under: Whitesplaining

    • amycrea

      By a student named Hong Kang?

    • Angry Jonny

      Swing and a miss.

    • Michael

      I think it is time to explain to the young man about not being the center of the universe and how our actions affect others. Teachable moments all.

    • Jared

      I read that differently. I thought the student was saying they were one of the ones offended and while their “goal was not to have the play canceled”, “we are tired of people telling us what we should be offended by and what we shouldn’t be offended by” (so they’re rightfully offended and people can . The “but” after not wanting to have the play canceled feels very different from an “and”.

      • MrE85

        That’s how I read it, too.

        • Jared

          My mistake, I thought you were implying that the student was complaining about people being offended.

          • MrE85

            I could have expressed my thoughts more clearly. My bad.

  • Mike

    Rather than canceling the play, perhaps a better remedy might have been a new social media post that clarified the intention. A different photo might have helped with that.

    Canceling the play is a draconian response that simply further dumbs down everyone involved. It’s pretty obvious from two seconds’ worth of investigation that this wasn’t meant to be an advertisement for the KKK, and thus any allegation of hate speech is as misguided as the students’ marketing of their play.

  • Ralphy

    I hope the school seizes this opportunity to teach rather than just punish. (Hopefully) these students were clueless as to the impact of their post. Perhaps they (or the entire school, students and staff) could benefit from a workshop that addresses the racist history of our country.

    • chlost

      Not just as history, but as current events.

  • Mike Worcester

    And now we also have a student (or students) who were behind the image being posted who are likely the subject of who knows what kind of backlash. Let’s presume for a moment they took this action without sincerely thinking of its optics. What is the best way to help them, and others, better understand just how not smart that move was? It’s easy to heap scorn; what’s not easy is to help learn from the fallout.

  • Matt

    This NPHS grad is embarrassed but not surprised. New Prague does a lot of things well as a community, but racial awareness is a glaring exception (which I realize also applies to a wide swath of MN cities…).

  • Eric Benson

    I believe this was a teachable moment the school fumbled on. Satire frequently takes on difficult subjects, such as racism, and uses sarcasm, ridicule and irony to expose it. (See “Huckleberry Finn.”) This is precisely what “The Foreigner” does…and it does it well. Cancelling the play was not the answer.

  • Isaac Olson

    Pity, it’s a good play. Such a shame that a little online slip caused its cancellation. Just goes to show the great importance of context.

  • lindblomeagles

    The big problem here is the minimization of the Klan’s historic actions. Yes, Klan images makes African Americans feel unwelcome. BUT IT OUGHT TO MAKE EVERY AMERICAN UNWELCOME because the KKK did not welcome A LOT OF PEOPLE . . . Jews, at one point Eastern Europeans, Asians (sorry Hong Kang), and Native Americans. More to the point, the Klan, and other white nationalist and Aryan nation groups, ARE STILL ORGANIZING. As a matter of fact, Dylan Roofs, who claimed to be a member of racist group, shot and killed 8 African Americans in a Historically Black South Carolina Church in 2015. Yes, the youth worked hard and had a great message to tell. — BUT you really have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to think the Klan is nothing more than a blast from the past.