Cherry Hill High School East Principal Dennis Perry apologized last week after his school’s prom tickets were called racist because they contained the phrase “party like its 1776.”
Cherry Hill High School East, which planned to have its annual senior prom at the National Constitutional Center in Philadelphia, came under fire last week from some parents who thought that the event’s tickets were “racist.”
The critics were objecting to the use of the phrase “party like it’s 1776,” which they claimed is racially insensitive due to the lack of political rights afforded to minorities in late 18th century America.
In a letter to the Cherry Hill East community, Principal Dennis Perry apologized to black students, writing that “it was insensitive and irresponsible not to appreciate that not all communities” had the freedom” to celebrate what life was like in 1776.”
Today, I teamed that members of our school community were offended by a statement written on our Senior Prom ticket. Specifically, the statement on the prom ticket called for students to, “… party like it’s 1776.” I am writing to apologize for the hurt feelings this reference caused for members of our school family. It was insensitive and irresponsible not to appreciate that not all communities can celebrate what life was like in 1776. I especially apologize to our African American students, whom I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording. You can expect that we will do better as a school community to produce well thought out appropriate communications.
In addition to the apology, Perry announced that the tickets for the event would be redesigned. Now, students would be asked to discard the original ticket in favor of a new ticket without the prom’s “racist” 1776 slogan.
In an effort to right this wrong and to do better for our students, we are going to take the following actions:
• Students will not be required to bring their prom tickets to gain entrance to the prom. We have a record of who purchased tickets, a name will be sufficient upon arrival.
• All students will receive a commemorative Prom Ticket at the prom. These will feature a new design and will be distributed to all attendees.
• Moving forward in an effort to learn from this experience, safeguards will be added to ensure that a diverse group of people view all information before it is distributed from the school. I would like to thank members of our school community for their caring and thoughtful conversations while discussing this sensitive issue.
Perry has faced some criticism for his apology. Some have noted that most demographic groups would have been in some way excluded from a celebration in 1776. They point out that women, Hispanics, Jews, Italians, Irish, Polish, and Asians were amongst the demographic groups that faced discrimination under the law in early America.
Writing for Law & Crime, author Elura Nanos pointed out this absurdity, suggesting that the prom tickets should not have ignited controversy.
I suppose it’s nice that the “African American students” got a shout-out in the district’s apology, although it might be good to point out that if we’re issuing sorries, then women should get some too. Any partying done in ‘76 would’ve meant women doing only what their landowning husbands had permitted. Oh, and what about Jewish students, who would have been largely shunned back in colonial times.