Art or Not? Black NJ High School Student Suspended After Submitting Yearbook Photo With Racial Slur

A black Princeton High School student was suspended last Friday after allegedly submitting racist, offensive language and images to her school’s yearbook.

Jamaica Ponder claims that the words and images that her school have an issue with were depictions of art in her home. The controversial pieces in question appeared on a wall in a photo of her friends submitted for publication in her school’s yearbook.

One piece, unable to fully see, said “N*gger Rich” while the other piece, a commentary on race, illustrated notable black men lynched, hanging from trees with TV’s around their faces – an analogy to their metaphorical ‘butchering’ by mass media.

On Ponder’s blog ‘Multi Magazine,’ the high school student claimed the imagery in her home is art, stating her school suspension was “unjust” and not understanding.

Ponder was reportedly also suspended alongside another student who submitted a photo that included Nazi swastikas.

In a letter sent to parents on Friday, Princeton High School Principal Gary Snyder apologized for the  yearbook’s senior collages including “insensitive, offensive, and provocative words and symbols of racial bias, bigotry, and anti-Semitism.” He also informed that the school “oppose(s) the use of offensive language and symbols.”

On Monday, 15 students petitioned Ponder’s suspension, asking the principal to consider the differences concerning profanity among races and to rescind Ponder’s disciplinary action. 

Senior Anna Hill, 17, a student who participated in the protest and petition, suggested that Ponder was wrongfully punished. “This is not a girl who used a profane word,” Hill said.

According to Newsworks, Ponder’s parents are siding with their daughter too.

“Ponder’s parents – her mother Michele Tuck-Ponder is a former Princeton mayor – also have asked for the suspension to be rescinded and plan to appeal to the borough’s civil rights commission to investigate the high school for its disciplinary practices, which the Ponders feel disproportionately impact students of color.

‘This is a young black lady who is bringing up issues that many people in Princeton don’t want to discuss. There are frictions in this town that people don’t want revealed. They figure the best move is to shut her down and send a message to the other kids to shut up, or you will be suspended,’ said her father Rhinold Ponder, a retired attorney. ‘The irony is that [the point of] my artwork is to facilitate discussions on race and to help reconstruct the language for more productive dialogue.'”


What are your thoughts on this student’s suspension? Was this art or offensive speech?



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