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Community reacts to backlash over racist 'promposal' in Minnesota

The "promposal" poster read, "If I was Black I’d be picking cotton, but I'm white so I'm picking you, prom?"

BIG LAKE, Minn. — Outside Big Lake High School the 'Hornets Way' highlights the school’s core values made up of kindness and respect. 

However, those values aren’t what’s getting the attention.

It’s a viral "promposal" photo that’s putting the city of Big Lake and its high school on the map for all the wrong reasons. 

"Growing up here, it doesn’t really surprise me sadly," said Aleshia Halvorson, who went to Big Lake High School. 

The promposal poster read, "If I was Black I’d be picking cotton, but I'm white so I'm picking you, prom?"

"That's a product of the environment that the school produces," said Rayveen Koha-Jallah, a 2018 graduate of Big Lake High School, and a local civil rights activist. 

Koha-Jallah grew up in Big Lake and is familiar with one of the students pictured in the viral post. 

"These people are people who I have seen, I’ve interacted with, I know personally," said Koha-Jallah. 

According to Koha-Jallah, the post was shared in a Big Lake online forum and that forum was shutdown shortly after the picture was shared. 

"Every time there’s a racial issue they try to sweep it under the rug or they try to say this is a learning and teaching moment," said Koha-Jallah. She went on to say, "They worry about the white children in the picture and their future and they don’t worry about the effects of all the children of color who have to see it, who go to school with them."

KARE 11 reached out to district leaders for answers in this case, but were referred to the statement: 

STATEMENT ON TODAY’S EVENTS BIG LAKE, Minn. - April 27, 2021 -Earlier today, the Big Lake School District was made aware of a “promposal” post on Facebook that reportedly involved students using a racial comment. The School District is taking this report very seriously and is in the process of investigating this matter. We will be evaluating it under any and all applicable School District policies and will take whatever action is necessary and appropriate to address the situation. Due to state and federal data privacy laws, the School District is prohibited from sharing more information about this matter with the public about the specifics of this incident and the students involved. Big Lake Schools does not condone racism, in any form. Our school has been committed to implementing the Hornet Way, as a way to develop and guide our students’ character and actions. The Hornet Way teaches the values of respect, honesty, kindness, responsibility, and fairness. We believe those values extend to all aspects of our school community. The School District also is committed to ensuring that all students and staff are treated equally and can attend school and report to work in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Our expectations are high and we expect compliance by all."

"This is a reflection of them continually trying to make racial issues not seem like a problem," said Koha-Jallah. 

A reflection to which some Big Lake parents disagree with. 

"The fact that you’re here doing this report perpetuates that fear, it perpetuates the racism," said Geri who has children who attend Big Lake. She went on to say, "this is not a racist town, this is not a racist school. This is at the heart of the people who made that choice. They are, as all of us are, responsible for our own actions.”

Actions which are now leading some to call for change.  

"They need to work on their staff understanding racial issues and making a safe place for all students of color within the school," said Koha-Jallah. 

Big Lake School leaders sent an alert to parents, teachers and students informing them that the school would be moving to distance learning Thursday and Friday because of threats, as a result of the viral photo.