Savannah, Georgia is one of the South’s best kept secrets with its teeming art life thanks to the world renowned Savannah College of Art and Design, beautiful architecture, and it boasts one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the country. Beneath its quaint southern hospitality and charm, however, rests an issue, among many others, that is most often swept under the rug — racial bias.
The issue of race and the tension that surrounds the city is not unique to Savannah but it is something that is expected. given its geographic positioning in the deep-seated South. One needs only to book a ticket on any historic tour in Savannah to learn more about its racial past but as we forge forward in 2018, it would seem that it wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
Many will remember a few years ago when Savannah’s own Paula Deen came under fire for her use of a racial epithet, the N-word. It sent her career in somewhat of a downward spiral. The racial slur reaches back to days of slavery in the South and still holds power when it’s used to shun, especially publicly. Knowing the history and power of this word, it is interesting how the racial slur ended up on a piece of paper, photographed, and then printed in Windsor Forest High School’s 2018 yearbook.
Most high school students, especially seniors, look forward to receiving their yearbook that is typically hundreds of pages long filled to the brim with memories that they will cherish for a lifetime. However, the first few pages of this year’s yearbook contained a racial slur in bright green letters. Typically, there is a yearbook staff at each high school who either takes photographs for the yearbook or request pictures from students. They must be approved by the staff and a faculty member before being printed. With that being said, how did this get by nearly 10 pairs of eyeballs before being sent to the publisher?
While no one directly affiliated with Windsor Forest High School was available for comment, a member of the Chatham County Board of Education was able to answer a few questions exclusively regarding the incident.
Here’s our interview.
Please state your name and position.
Of course. My name is Michael Johnson and I am the school board representative for District 7 Savannah. I’ve been in this position since June 1, 2016.
In the official statement it says that “students are required to turn in their yearbooks this week and that they would receive the yearbook back immediately.” Are they receiving replacements at that time or what is happening?
I’m really not sure. That’s probably a question best answered by someone at the high school. It could be that administrators are taking the yearbooks and putting something to cover the picture or immediately receiving a new yearbook …. really not sure given the time frame.
I was thinking that it wouldn’t be enough turn around time for the publisher to issue all new yearbooks. To your knowledge, was there a faculty member in charge of overseeing the yearbook staff or is that not a procedure at this time?
Typically, there is supposed to be a faculty member that oversees this sort of thing but from what I know in speaking with Academic Affairs, the person in question is being handled accordingly, internally.
I also just want to add how much this really hurt my heart to see. To think that someone would think it’s okay to hand this note to a student, photograph it, and then proceed to have it printed in the yearbook is really upsetting. I am glad that the district staff has taken swift action to eradicate the problem and dispel misinformation. While this is a teachable moment, I really hope and pray that this doesn’t happen again to any school in Savannah or beyond.
With the school year completed and graduation season upon us for schools across Savannah, one can only hope that this lapse in judgment does not tarnish what should otherwise be a joyous and momentous occasion. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”