What the hell is ‘Wigger Wednesday?’

A high school in Red Wing, Minnesota is under fire for what a federal class action lawsuit describes as a 2009 homecoming theme called “Wigger Wednesday” during the school’s spirit week. After first rejecting a “tropical theme” a number of white students then decided it would be a fantastic idea to dress in attire that looked “black.” Their interpretation of “black” meant to wear “oversized sports Jerseys, low-slung pants, baseball hats cocked to the side, and ‘doo rags’ on their heads.”

“Wigger” is a pejorative slang term for a white person who emulates mannerisms, language, and fashions associated with African-American culture, particularly hip hop.

Via Think Progress:

Former Red Wing High School student Quera Pruitt, an African-American, filed the suit in Minnesota on behalf of an unnamed class of “all students who experienced discrimination as a result of Wigger Day” — a class that may include more than 40 people. The school principal and school district superintendent, however, still “den[y] the allegations that it has created a racially hostile environment.”

So the school is admitting that “Wigger Wednesday” happened but is denying that it created a hostile environment for black students. Really? Does the school district really not think it might be slightly uncomfortable for black students to be openly made fun of by the majority white students who think it’s hilarious to dress like their favorite gangsta rapper?

Red Wing High School is predominantly white with only five black students in their graduating class in 2009. I don’t know why the white students thought mimicking “hip hop” culture was clever but I know it’s wholly inappropriate and offensive to revert to straight stereotypes to mock an entire group of people.

I can relate with the feelings of the plaintiff’s in the class action lawsuit, as I was the only black student in my grade from kindergarten until the 9th grade. One February my freshman year of high school, I overheard two white students joke about Black History Month by calling it “Ni**er Month.” I confronted the students and informed the faculty but nothing was done as a result. I applaud Ms. Pruitt and especially her mother for not only calling out the school but taking legal action. What’s worse, there are reports that 2009 was not the first year “Wigger Wednesday” happened. Red Wing High School should have disciplined these students and called an end to this nonsense in the first instance.

Stereotypes are not funny. Not even a little bit.

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/dearabigail/ Abigail

    I’m curious if the school or a school club officially sanctioned the change in dress code. It sounds like the spirit week theme of the day was “tropical”. Certainly the students shouldn’t have dressed like that, but if it was just a group of kids acting up, I’m wondering who the lawsuit could be targeting? Doesn’t sound to me like the school is responsible, maybe because they didn’t send the children who participated home?

    Not to undermine the outrageousness of this occurrence, I’m just trying to understand who’s being sued for what.

    • http://feministing.com/members/zerlina/ zerlina

      Well as I say in the post 1) this wasn’t the first time this happened and 2) the kids were not disciplined at all (i.e. not sent home). Hope that helps clarify things a bit.

    • http://feministing.com/members/daiju/ Masa

      It was students acting up, but the school didn’t address it in a meaningful way. I don’t know what the best course of action should have been – I doubt suspensions would have affected school culture or change the attitudes of the students dressing up. But if 60 or 70 students were involved, that might be at least worthy of an assembly. Was there any announcement or public shaming of the behavior that would help the outnumbered minority feel like there was some kind of legitimate advocate? I doubt Pruitt just happened to get depressed the next day for no reason. She obviously felt isolated and disempowered. That happens when you feel like your community doesn’t understand or even care.

  • http://feministing.com/members/fragglera/ Rachel

    wow. A very dear friend of mine is a Gypsy, which is rather uncommon in the states, obviously… anyway, she learned of a mutual friend attending a ‘gypsy party’ and in order to clarify how offensive that notion was to her she said ‘can you imagine anyone having a Jew party? How about a black party? that’s absurd!’ and it certainly is, until I read this post anyway.

  • http://feministing.com/members/smiles/ Smiley

    Maybe it was offensive. Maybe it wasn’t. What always amazes me is that the first thing an offended American does is call his or her lawyer. (Stereotype, I know.)

    Just imagine living in England. Vicars and Tarts parties are a staple of (adult) social scenes.

    (Just saying.)

    • http://feministing.com/members/rk/ Anne Marie

      It is offensive, there’s really no maybe to it. Where does the word come from? A racial slur. Making it into a white version doesn’t change what it is.

      More importantly, that was NOT the first thing she did.

      “The suit names the school principal, the school board superintendent, the school board, and a number of unnamed teachers and administrators as defendants, all of whom Pruitt alleges knew about Wigger Day and did nothing to stop it. What’s more, the lawsuit alleges that Pruitt and her mother complained to school officials about the event, to no avail.”

      They went to the school officials who did nothing to stop what was going on. Your next step up is going to the media and/or taking legal action. What would you do if your school were mocking your ethnicity and your complaints resulted in nothing being done?

      Also: there are plenty of offensive or questionable party themes here for adults (see themes such as”golf pros and tennis hos” or “anything but clothes”). Having them routinely for high school homecoming is a totally different thing.

    • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ toongrrl

      I saw that on “Bridget Jones”

  • http://feministing.com/members/goddessjaz/ goddessjaz

    It’s pretty disgusting that this keeps happening. Over the last 10 years I feel like there have been a lot of these cases, usually on college campuses. I specifically remember a frat had a night similar to this and they had blackface. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/779674/posts (don’t read the comments!)
    As I searched for it I found a few other similar stories. How is this still acceptable?

  • davenj

    It’s extremely problematic for a school to allow something like this. Even the name alone is offensive. It appears that the school ducked challenging racism and inappropriate behavior in the hope that the problem would simply go away, or that nobody would be so offended that it would have ramifications for them.

    It goes without saying that this was unacceptable, and if there’s evidence that administrators knew of this but did nothing about it, there are clearly grounds for a legal case against the district. Proving knowledge will be difficult, but far from impossible. Also, failure to adequately rectify the situation after the fact is also grounds for a case, and that appears to have happened.

    • http://feministing.com/members/smiles/ Smiley

      Let’s assume there is a case. Let’s assume the school loses.

      Then what? A million-dollar settlement? (To who?) Is that going to solve anything? The resignation of the school board?

      (By the way, who is offended by the term? The link does not say. To the emulators or to the people being parodied?)

      Had the party been called ‘Hip Hop’, would any offense have been taken? Yes? No? Even if the dressing up were identical to the W Wednesday do?

      If yes, what about an Abba evening? Or what about a Heavy Metal theme? Surely, that is offensive to white working class youth. Oh, I could go on and on.

  • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

    This is not any more wrong than dressing up Mafia themed. Hip hop and gangster culture are not black culture, maybe they are a fraction of it.

    I hope this lawsuit falls flat on its face.

    • http://feministing.com/members/smiles/ Smiley


      Agreed. Imagine if the Italians sued because Peruvians sang Verdi, or the Germans took offence at Spaniards playing Beethoven.

      Gee, if this suit gets anywhere, Eminem ought to find himelf a good lawyer.

  • http://feministing.com/members/jamesf86/ james

    I really have to say that the whole point of the “wigger Wenseday” was misinterpreted. Firstly they dressed up as “wiggers” not Black people. They werent running around with buckets of chicken or something overtly racist. It was a lampooning of ignorant, and frankly stupid looking WHITE people who dress the way those students dressed. The joke is that the real “wiggers” think that thats the norm. It has nothing to do with black people, and not for nothing but can anyone laugh at themselves anymore? its obviously an exaggeration that nobody buys into, black comics have made fun of the white persons style of dress, speech, hair etc. why is that ok, and this is so outrageous?