Nov. 27 – JANESVILLE – During a Parker High School girls’ basketball game against the Beloit Memorial on Nov. 23, several Parker student outfits wore “gangster” outfits – an issue that offended some members of the Beloit community.
Parker students were seen at the game last Tuesday night wearing “woman thug” tanks, baggy pants showing their underwear, rear-facing hats, durags and gold chains. In the past, Parker students have been known to dress up in predetermined themes at sporting events.
Beloit Memorial girls varsity basketball team captain Mandi Franks emailed Parker High School Director of Sports, Clayton Kreger, and Parker Director Christoper Laue expressing disappointment with the clothing used by the Janesville student group .
Franks said the choice of outfits was problematic because they mocked black culture and took gang violence lightly, which is a serious problem in Beloit that affects students at Franks’ school.
“The deaths we mourn every day and our colleagues we see go to jail every day are not jokes to us and they shouldn’t be jokes to your students,” wrote Franks in her letter to Kreger. “I don’t see how this can ever be considered okay, so Parker as a school may need to have some inclusion and diversity education to prevent this and similar situations from happening in the future.”
Franks told The Gazette that a friend of hers saw a post on social media before the game announcing a “gangster” topic for contestants. When Franks got to the game, she saw many Parker students in the outfits.
“I knew it was a joke for everyone and I really think they thought it was funny,” Franks told the newspaper. “This is all a joke to them and they took it very lightly. That’s why I mentioned in the email that they should start some diversity and cultural education or training in their school. I know we’re at Beloit Memorial constantly have gatherings that “embrace black culture and Hispanic culture.”
Franks said Friday she hasn’t heard from a Parker High School officer but hopes they understand why the incident was hurtful. She said that no apology would likely put her and her teammates at ease.
After all, this is not the first time her team has been exposed to racially insensitive jokes, Franks said. She believes her team and the Beloit Memorial in general are being attacked this way because of the gang violence in Beloit.
“Every time we go out on the street and do something, we’re the ‘ghetto school’ of the quote,” Franks said. “That’s what people call us. The people will come [dressed up] as police or SWAT teams to our games. The jokes never end. Became [called] ‘Blood Monument.’ “
Kathy Crawford, a parent of a Beloit Memorial basketball player, was also shocked by the “themed” night outfits.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said Crawford. “I have four children who played sports in this area. We didn’t know what was going on at first because we always saw all the children with bandanas and woman clubs. My daughter came over and said that a young lady [from Parker] had told her it was a ‘land vs. ghetto issue’. “
“Why should you do that?” asked Crawford to address the Parker students dressed in this way. “It was just so inappropriate.”
Crawford said the outfits were tasteless given the history of racism in Janesville and Beloit. She said the election demonstrated a lack of empathy and insensitivity to Beloit Memorial.
“Parker should make better decisions when it comes to theme nights,” said Crawford. “You should probably be considerate of other people because our kids live this every day. We’ve had a tough year. Our kids are losing their friends. It’s a bad decision they make [Parker High students] made and they have to face the consequences. “
Franks said she hopes the school’s students will learn from this.
“Everyone on my team knows people our age who have died of gang violence,” said Franks. “We all took it very, very personally. That’s why we’re making such a big deal of it.”
Janesville School District and Parker High School officials were unavailable for comment on Friday when school was out for the extended Thanksgiving holiday.