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Spirit Wear with Hate Symbol Pulled from Circulation

Zanthee Schwarzmann

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On April 13, Principal Simon Fletcher emailed the school community to pull from circulation some PCS spirit wear, made in late 2015, that features the internet meme Pepe the Frog. The t-shirts were pulled because the meme is now associated with anti-Semitism and racism, according to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mr. Fletcher stated in the Thursday letter on April 13: “In the time since this spirit week and the creation of the shirt, Pepe the Frog has been co-opted in some venues as a hate symbol. While the original intent of the Pepe meme was benign, as was our inclusion of the meme on our spirit wear, it is now clear that in many contexts this image is used to represent very hateful and dangerous ideas.”

When it was created by Matt Furie in 2005 in the comic series Boy’s Club, Pepe the Frog did not have anti-Semitic and racist connotations. However, according to a news release by the Anti-Defamation League, an international human rights organization, “as the meme proliferated in online venues such as 4chan, 8chan and Reddit, a subset of memes came into existence promoting anti-Jewish, bigoted and offensive ideas.”

In September 2016, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center–a national non-profit group that combats hate and intolerance in the United States–both officially identified Pepe the Frog as a hate symbol. The ADL added the meme to its Hate on Display Database, a comprehensive online database of hate symbols: https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols

In his letter, Mr. Fletcher notifies the PCS community that students are not allowed to wear the Pepe shirts because they are offensive and now violate the dress code because of the racism and anti-Semitism in the symbol. He also said that students should return the Pepe shirts to the front office to trade them for another PCS spirit wear shirts.

In the Thursday Letter, Mr. Fletcher added: “PCS strongly values being an inclusive environment in which any expression of discrimination in not tolerated. While context matters–clearly the depiction of Pepe in graduation attire was meant to be very much in line with PCS values–we do not want our school to be in any way associated with the ideas of hate and discrimination that the image in some cases depicts.”

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Spirit Wear with Hate Symbol Pulled from Circulation