School Board Member Objects To Play Because Of 'N-Word'

A Perry Township school board member says she is against a high school's production of the play "Ragtime" because of a racially sensitive word in the play's dialogue.

Perry Meridian High School students are scheduled to perform the play on Feb. 23, 25 and 26. School board member Rubie Alexander says she is opposed to the play because its dialogue contains the "N-word" nine times.

Alexander, who is black, told RTV6's Derrik Thomas that the word causes her pain.

"They have never walked for one minute in my skin or in my shoes to know every time that word is said how raw it makes me, how they pull scabs off my wounds," Alexander said.

Alexander is not alone in her opposition to the play. A group called Concerned Clergy Inc. wrote a letter to the school, asking for a cancellation in the name of "human decency."

Superintendent H. Douglas Williams said the play is an important teaching tool against racism, and that he believes the community can handle the word in the context of the play.

"I think the use of the term in the context of this production and what happens in the production, what people come away with, is what matters," said Williams, who is white. "What people will come away with, in my opinion, is that racism is horrid."

Perry Meridian junior Tiffany Clay, who will portray the character Sarah in the play, said that she understands Alexander's aversion to the word, but she believes the play must go forward.

"I completely understand where it is that she is coming from. I really do. But I also think that it is very important that we do this story," said Clay, who is black.

Paul Strack, a white Perry Meridian student who will play the role of Willie Conklin, a racist volunteer firefighter who uses the "N-word" the most, said the play will help people learn from the past.

"I believe this is a great example of how bad America was at that time, how much further we have come from then, and how much further we have to go," Strack said.

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