The Walt Disney World Resort is expressing "regret" over a high school band's performance at the Magic Kingdom earlier this week.
The band from Port Neches-Groves High School in Port Neches, Texas, which uses the "Indians" nickname, marched down Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday. Yesterday, another guest posted the performance by the band's "Indianettes" drill team to Twitter. This one's definitely a risky click, as it includes an entire Buzzword Bingo card's worth of racial stereotyping and caricature, including the students chanting "scalp 'em, Indians, scalp 'em."
Seriously, if The Onion tried to create a parody of the most offensive high school drill team performance imaginable, it might not look too far from this. Reportedly, it could have been worse, as a Disney cast member is said to have told the drill team to ditch their faux-native headdresses before going on stage.
A Disney spokesperson released a statement: "We regret this performance took place as it did not reflect the audition tape that was submitted. We have immediately put measures in place to ensure performances reflect the auditions."
I have reached out to Disney for additional detail on what those measures might be.
Look, I am more than willing hold Disney accountable for insensitivity in its parks (see yesterday's post), but I feel for Disney on this one. Performances by outside groups in the parks are almost always "pay to play" these days, but Disney still reserves the right to decline school's applications. Yet Disney has little more than a group's recorded audition to use in making that call. A group that decides to do something other than what they submitted leaves Disney open for potential embarrassment.
This band has performed at Walt Disney World in the past, according to its website and social media. But I could find no complaints about past performances.
As a former high school performing arts kid, and the parent of a now-former high school arts student, I know the importance of kids having opportunities to perform for the public. Too often, only immediate family and close friends come to see shows at the school. To get the invaluable experience of performing in front of a large audience of strangers, you need to get out into the community, where those people are.
Disney provides an amazing opportunity for that experience, in addition to creating a huge motivation for students. But having such venues available to schools is dependent upon schools treating these opportunities with respect.
A school that uses this imagery, buys these costumes and teaches these routines is not one that is in the habit of respecting other people. Perhaps Disney ought to consider a ban on accommodating musical groups from schools using offensive mascots and imagery, as part of its new measures to ensure that something like this does not happen again.
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