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Gangster Dress: Intent vs. Impact
Kajaiyaiu Hopkins ‘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.

I struggle to understand where that group of girls did something wrong.

Unlike people in the past who have added elements of black culture to the “gangster” look, that’s really not what happened here.

Quite often during Choate Week or on a team dress-up day, groups of people say that they’re going to dress up as gangsters, but really just end up emulating elements of minority cultures.

In those cases, wearing braids in your hair or putting on face tattoos isn’t funny or part of the “gangster” look—it’s taking real elements of rich cultures and degrading them.

But in this particular case, none of that happened. These girls didn’t put braids in their hair, insinuating that having braids, or having tattoos, or face markings, is something bad. They didn’t throw up gang signs or put themselves into a situation where they were appropriating a culture in a negative fashion.

I think we are doing ourselves a disservice to say that being a gangster is associated with being a black or Hispanic person. Being a gangster does not equate to being a minority.

These girls decided to dress up as gangsters. That doesn’t mean that they were trying to be black.

When talking about intent vs. impact, we have to consider the effects that this post had on those girls. The post makes it seem like they are people perpetuating racial stereotypes, and that isn’t the case.

This is my view, from the eyes of a black girl who understands that too often at Deerfield black and other minorities’ cultures are made fun of or regarded as “bad” or “negative.”

Beyond trying or even intending, I don’t see evidence that these girls did something horrible to a group of minority people here. We should consider that when thinking about what actually happened.