One student takes a stand against her high school’s racist yearbook photo

When Florida high school senior Jessica Morales received her yearbook this year, she was both shocked and disappointed to find a deeply offensive photo amongst its pages. The picture, which took up nearly half a page, featured various students dressed in sombreros, ponchos, and mustaches while holding fake green cards, with another student dressed up as “border patrol” between them. As a young Hispanic woman, Morales couldn’t believe the yearbook had included the photo, let alone featured it so prominently. So, she posted it to social media, where it quickly went viral — and now, she’s speaking out about why.

“It was just really offensive, especially because the picture kind of belittles the whole issue,” Morales told WFTX, referring to the fact that both her parents are still dealing with the immigration process themselves.

It’s really racist, I can tell you that,” her father, Miguel Morales, continued. “I’ve never seen anything like that, I thought it was 2015 and people don’t act like that.”

The photo was taken at Naples High School’s spirit week — and while some students insisted the photo was all in good fun, many questioned what could have possibly prompted such a racially insensitive costume. Disappointingly, WFTX reports that it was “Twin Day,” a theme that has absolutely nothing to do with immigration. According to the district’s website, the school is nearly 30% Hispanic and less than 1% of the student body is migrant (which, of course, includes immigrants of multiple identities) — and it’s worth questioning why a photo that could potentially offend so many of the school’s students was featured in this way.

By posting the photo to social media, Morales hoped to get the attention of the school’s administration and to receive an explanation for why it was included in the school’s $90 yearbooks. But in the process, she did something even more incredible: she brought attention to why perpetuating tired, offensive stereotypes is so damaging, and why cultural appropriation is so offensive.

Many were quick to share the photo and support her cause, including Morales’ friend, Kristen Perez, in Texas.

“This a highlight of something they did this year,” Perez told WFTX. “This is something Naples High School condones and represents.”

We think it’s awesome that Morales decided to take a stand against the photo, thus turning a hurtful, rage-worthy experience into a learning opportunity for others. It takes courage to speak up when you know your voice is in the minority, but that’s when speaking up is the most essential and we applaud her for doing it. And it seems like she has no intentions of slowing down anytime soon: Morales is heading to Middlebury College in the fall, and has hopes of pursuing a career that in some way can help to prevent this from happening again.

“It would be amazing to do that,” she told WFTX. “To. . . make an impact on the world because there is so much inequality in it. It would be awesome to make a change.”

The school released a statement in response to the photo’s criticism earlier this week.

As of now, the school has not made public any intentions of reprimanding either the students in the photo or the yearbook staff — but we hope that Morales’ brave stand helps to prevent it from happening again in the future.

(Image via, via.)