After posting a controversial photo to Instagram in which she was kitted out like a stereotypical white male private-school student, the first black female student body president of an elite institution stepped down from her post.
In the photo, Maya Peterson — now a Lawrenceville School grad — sports a Yale hoodie and button-up and holds a hockey stick. The caption joked that she was dressed as a “Lawrenceville boi” and featured the hashtags “#romney2016,” “#confederate,” and “#peakedinhighschool.”
Peterson said she posted the snap in response to the backlash she received for her senior photo, in which she and friends posed using a “Black Power” salute. In an interview with Buzzfeed, she said the “boi” photo was a joke, but apparently some of her classmates didn’t see it that way. Neither did the school.
A few weeks later, she said, she was asked to resign from her role as student body president or face disciplinary action. According to Peterson, her resignation was just the most recent in a parade of injustices, however. As a black female lesbian, she was an anomaly in the leadership role at the New Jersey school — which first admitted black students 50 years ago — and her efforts to introduce diversity initiatives were often met with resistance and hostility.
For example, photos of Peterson smoking marijuana were allegedly sent to the dean of students, racist tweets were fabricated and attributed to her, and half-naked photos (origins unknown) of the young woman were sent to other students.
“I understand why I hurt people’s feelings, but I didn’t become president to make sure rich white guys had more representation on campus,” Peterson said of the Instagram photo. “Let’s be honest. They’re not the ones that feel uncomfortable here [at the school].”
One student named David told Buzzfeed that the photo “violated the spirit of the Lawrenceville community … It was hateful. It wasn’t inclusive. When I think of Maya Peterson, I don’t think of someone who is an avid proponent of progress or of inclusiveness. I think of someone who is hateful. She had a hateful spirit.”
What do you think of Peterson’s post and subsequent resignation? Weigh in in the comments below.