Racist message slipped into Menomonie yearbook

The “senior notes” section of the Menomonie (Wis.) High School yearbook carried the typical sort of nonsensical quote that usually is sprinkled throughout yearbooks:

“Ib has a tiny earning, but leaves a crisp kid satisfied.”

Weird, eh?

Take the first letter of each word and you’ll get the coded message.

The student has been suspended, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram says, which isn’t much of a punishment, and now there’s the question of what to do with the yearbooks. Recall the yearbooks (they were distributed on Friday) or just let it pass?

“If the school district can’t afford to reprint it, I bet our community would come together to do a Go Fund Me (campaign) to reprint the yearbook,” said resident Melissa Smith-Tourville. “This is outrageous. Our students should not have to have it permanently etched in their yearbooks.”

At a rally outside the school yesterday, one student suggested keeping the yearbooks as evidence of racism in Menomonie.

The school district says students can rip the page out or they’ll provide a sticker to go over the offensive quote.

The school superintendent told the school board last night he doesn’t think there’ll be a senior notes page in the future.

  • >>The school superintendent told the school board last night he doesn’t think there’ll be a senior notes page in the future.<<

    Probably a good idea.

    • Kassie

      This happened in my Sophomore Yearbook in 1993. Racist things in the senior notes, racist pictures slipped in, etc. The answer wasn’t to not have the senior notes in the future. Instead, they publicly punished the students severely and did a better job reviewing content. Don’t punish the good kids for the racist ones, change your practices and ensure things like this don’t happen again.

      • RBHolb

        Times have changed. If they did this in Menomonie today, there would be a firestorm of yelling about “political correctness run amok over a little joke, and anyway, that’s not what he meant.”

      • I guess I don’t see the point of the “Student Notes”. I’m pretty sure we didn’t have those in our yearbook….

        • Kassie

          What the point of any part of a yearbook?

          • I use to remind myself who someone is when I’m contacted, for example, on Facebook. Occasionally I’ll see an obituary of someone who graduated in my class and I’ll go back and look up who they were.

            A lot of folks didn’t, but I enjoyed high school. A lot. I liked the friends I made. I enjoyed my hometown and what it used to be.

            At one point in my life, I was all about not giving a damn about the past. I got over it and occasionally enjoy leafing back through time and recalling certain things I may have forgotten.

          • Kassie

            I didn’t mean my comment to say yearbooks aren’t meaningful or useful. I should of been more clear. I meant that Onan may not see the point of “student notes” and I don’t see the point of pictures of the homecoming dance, but ultimately it is up to the students to determine what’s valuable. If most of the students are putting in notes, then they must find it valuable. If only a couple students did or want it, then they would pull it.

          • Ah, yes. We didn’t have a notes page in my yearbook (the alphabet was still pretty young back then), but there were some clever captions sprinkled throughout the book, mostly written by yearbook staff. I still kind of marvel at how witty they were. They only let the best and brightest work on the yearbook back then.

          • lindblomeagles

            Bob is right again. Although I didn’t enjoy high school, I remember KEY milestones from that period, 1984 – 1988. During my 4 years Prince became a star, the Cosby Show first aired, the Space Shuttle carrying the first woman into space blew up seconds after launch, Iran Contra Scandal happened, and Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first and only Black Mayor died after serving 3 years. I almost flunked my senior year. My football and basketball teams stunk. The rival High School kids threatened us with physical assault and robbery. And all of that motivated me to come to Minnesota. Today, I have a home, two wonderful kids, and a wife of 10 years. That’s what High School Yearbooks are for.

  • “[O]ne student suggested keeping the yearbooks as is evidence of racism in Menomonie.”

    Yes. I think that solution would be both educational and historically accurate.

  • Mike Worcester

    Without hearing from the student directly we will not know if this was a silly prank intended to see if anyone will catch it (and how did they, did someone tip them off?) or if this was done with malicious intent. The source article is not clear on this.

    That being said, and I have no clue what a yearbook run costs these days, perhaps a proper punishment would be to have the student pay for the reprinting of those who want it?

    • It’s unclear to me how anything involving the message “I hate blacks” can be described as “a silly prank” regardless of almost all other context and rationale.

      If it was to see “if anyone else will catch it” you could make the sentence about anything, a teacher, politics, cats… anything. So when you choose a racist message to see if “anyone would catch it”, what exactly is it you could hear that might settle your confusion about whether that was a malicious intent.

      How exactly does “I hate blacks” as a message not be malicious?

      • Mike Worcester

        I certainly was not trying to be glib in my comments, only trying to note that the full story was not out there yet. That’s all.

        • RBHolb

          Enough of the story is out there. Unless this student is a victim of identity theft, I really can’t see what waiting for the “full story” could accomplish.

    • Jim in RF

      Don’t see this as a prank unless he’s a poor judge of funny. Funny would be “Mrs. Smith eats worms.” This is a statement.

      • Mike Worcester

        I work with h.s. kids and wow do they do they engage in dumb actions at times. The lack of cognition in them can be aggravating at times. Was it a dare gone bad? We don’t know yet. All I am trying to say is that until we hear from the student or someone allowed to speak for them directly, we can only speculate on their motivations. Maybe they really were a poor judge of funny. Won’t be the first time a teen has been guilty of that.

        • We did hear from the student. He wrote a message. It said “I hate blacks.”

          Even if he meant it as “just a joke”, the racist underpinning comes from somewhere inside him.

          Obviously it’s dumb. Racism is dumb.

          • Mike Worcester

            And I guess I for one would like to know why.

          • Because kids do dumb things and sometimes they call upon their racism to do it. Maybe it’s a big part of the kid; maybe not. But writing it off as “just a joke” is, itself, another form of racism b/c this country has a long history of giving racism the benefit of the doubt.

          • KTFoley

            There could be any number of answers to the “why” question but I can’t think of a single one that would make me change my reaction to “oh, well, in that case it wasn’t really so bad after all to write a message saying that you hate blacks.”

            Ignorant or malicious, the damage is done. He or she sent the message out into the world, and other people got it.

            Now — ESPECIALLY now during the HS rite of passage that marks a step to adulthood — is the time to ensure that this individual absorbs a key lesson for being an adult:
            Every behavior is a choice and every choice has consequences, so choosing a behavior means being responsible for its consequences … even if they’re not quite what you expected.

    • lindblomeagles

      Mike, here’s the problem with your curiosity about the student’s motivation for his racist statement. Prank or not, this is the year 2017. The student reasonably knew the original statement was off limits. Let me put it to you this way. When I went to high school, some student, usually a senior, would try to pull the fire alarm. While the student may have thought it was a prank, school administrators, students, and the fire department, never did because a) students know and understand the simple rules; and b) everybody’s day is disrupted, needlessly so, because of a student deciding unilaterally to put his needs ahead of everyone else’s. That’s what happened here. Code writer knew racist statements were off limits. He pulled the metaphorical fire alarm anyway. And now, because he put himself first, NOBODY is happy about it. Bob is right on this one man.

    • Al

      That prank is HILARIOUS. A real knee-slapper.

  • Jeff C.

    Why isn’t the name of the student included in the article? They are probably 18. It would be nice if a future employer found this story when they Googled him before hiring him.

    • Jim in RF
  • lindblomeagles

    I’m going to sound like a broken record but the take-away from Menominee, Delano, and Big Stone County is racism is alive. Since President Barack Obama’s first term in the White House, more and more Americans have said and done things in the name of racial hatred. It’s ironic too, because when national metrics are examined, African Americans have made some gains, but their earnings and educational attainment still trails whites. The Hispanic population is growing across the country, but here again, according to national metrics, they, too, trail whites in educational and economical attainment. To what do we seek as the source of so much racial animus? And once we find that source, how do we reprogram the mindset of people, like this student, so that they understand just how dumb and simplistic it is to correlated problems with the color of one’s skin?

    • Al

      You’re not a broken record if it’s true.