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Gangster Dress: Intent vs. Impact
Melanie Graciani ‘15 Contributing Writer
May 20, 2015

On Sunday May 5, a sit-down table of senior girls dressed up as “gangsters.” At dinners throughout this rotation, the group dressed up with some theme in mind. One night, they all wore nice dresses and heels and called it “Prom Night.” However, on May 5, when the girls decided to wear baggy sweatpants and backwards hats, some of their fellow DA students were offended. Melanie Graciani ‘15 made a post on the Deerfield Student Forum Facebook page expressing her frustration with the incident, and many people reacted to her post—some supported her claims, and others opposed them.

Students dressing up as “gangsters” makes many minority students at Deerfield highly uncomfortable.

I recognize that I am just one voice, but many of my fellow minority students thanked me for making the Student Forum post and taking the first few steps towards making a difference in our community.

In the past, people have wanted to say something about the fact that students at Deerfield often dress in such a manner. However, these people have remained silent, fearing that their voices would not be heard, or that others would say they were complaining about small things.

I made the post in an effort to put an end to that type of thinking, and to put an end to students’ dressing in stereotypes.

I did not feel attacked, but I did feel very uncomfortable. Melanie Diaz’s Facebook comment in response to my post summed up my reasoning.

She stated that it made her “very uncomfortable to see people dressing like [‘gangsters’] here in a place where [she] should feel safe.”

She added: “Back home many kids are assaulted on their way to school just for wearing certain colors, shoes and having certain haircuts.”

Over the course of the year, she said that she’s “seen many people throwing up ‘gang’ signs and finding it very entertaining and posting pictures of them throwing up blood signs”—which upset her because she “used to live in a place that was surrounded by 41 different gang territories, [where] there were many circumstances in which people would get killed by doing just simple hand gestures and [have this] mistaken by a gang member as an opposing gang’s sign.”

These types of things—dressing up as a “gangster” and throwing up gang signs—should not be a fun thing to do: it is taboo.

Whenever I see someone performing such actions, it irritates me because I know that they are ignorant of the history, of the meaning and of the consequences that are linked with gang signs and dressing up as “gangsters.”

Not everybody has the same experiences to base their actions and ideas off of. Therefore, what might be perceived as fun and amusing to one may be serious and offensive to another.

As students of the Deerfield community, I believe that it is not only our duty, but also our moral obligation, to think about how our actions may be perceived and how they may affect others.

I am a firm believer of intent vs. impact. People may be “socially aware,” but nobody is perfect and mistakes can be made.

No one has ever dressed as a “gangster” with malicious intent (I hope). But when people dress up as “gangsters,” making hand gestures and shouting out “funny catch phrases,” they do not realize the full impact of their actions and the consequences that may come with them.

We, as Deerfield students, should “act with respect, honesty, and concern for others and . . . seek to inspire the same values in our community and beyond.”

We should rise above typical stereotyping and cultural appropriation and realize that we are all, as a community, obligated to take everyone’s feelings and concerns into consideration.