Jamaica Ponder, the high school senior who has chronicled racist incidents in Princeton over the last year on her blog, submitted a controversial senior collage photo for the yearbook that included two pieces of artwork in the background.
One painting shows black men hanging from collages of trees with televisions around their heads. She said the piece is a commentary on famous black men who have been notoriously butchered by the media. A second painting features the words “NIGGER RICH,” in dark acrylic paint and chopped up dollar bills.
The yearbooks were distributed last week. Ponder was called into the principal’s office on Thursday because of the photo. In her blog post about the photo, she claimed that the inclusion of her dad’s art was an oversight and the photo was meant to be innocent and apolitical.
“I then think of the fact that nigger was in my senior collage and not someone else’s. I wonder what the repercussions would be for a white or hispanic or asian kid if they had made the same oversight as myself, if they would be treated differently for the same infractions due to their complexion. I wonder if that’s even legal,” she writes.
“The n-word is in our yearbook, but it’s coming from a black kid so that makes it okay, right? I’m well aware of the historical connotations of the word and why I’m in a position to throw it around freely if I so desire. Typically, I choose not to but only because I am equally as aware of the myriad of different, better words to use in place of it,” she writes.
“With that awareness comes a distinct disdain at the idea of a word reserved only for a select few, but to ignore the reasoning that only some people may use the n-word would be adhering to an ahistorical fallacy; it would be forgetting that before it was sung along to Kanye, it was hurled at humans working in fields, teenagers sitting at lunch counters and anyone who wandered too far towards the front of the bus. It was a weapon- one which black people are now granted use of so that it can no longer hurt them,” she writes. “So yes, the n-word may be in our yearbook, but it is also on the tongues of PHS students who’s only claim to it is the fact that it was once theirs and they can’t stand the idea of having something stolen from them. Even if it is a six-letter word.”
The blog post comes a day after the school district hosted a community forum on racism. Ponder has blogged about a few incidents involving high school and middle school students over the past year. She first posted about high school students playing Jew Nazi beer pong last spring. More recently she shared an Instagram post by a student who complained about having to ride the school bus with blacks. The Instagram post included the n-word. Ponder also wrote a post about middle school students who were caught consuming marijuana brownies at a private home. When asked who gave them the brownies, students falsely blamed a black student, saying everyone would believe them because the student was black.
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