Portland Public Schools has been forced to reconsider banning rap music on buses after a backlash from parents who said the policy sent a racist message.
The school district issued a memo in March, The Oregonian reported, instructing school bus drivers not to play "religious, rap music, or talk show programs," and listing pop, country, and jazz as acceptable music for the drivers to play:
Parents became aware of the memo earlier this month and complained to the school district, pointing out that the rule excluded a genre of music primarily produced, recorded, and performed by people of color.
“I was passed on the memo from a friend,” Colleen Ryan, whose child attends a Portland public school, told KGW-TV. “My first reaction was this is really racist and somebody didn't check to make sure this is ok,” she said.
Ryan said it she doesn't think the issue is cursing, because radio versions of most rap songs have explicit language censored. Another parent, Kim Sordyl, wrote to the school board to express her anger over the memo.
“Why would rap music be singled out as offensive and country music and pop music was not?” Sordyl told the local news station, criticizing the school district's spending on equity and diversity programs as grandstanding in light of the memo. “It appears to me this equity spending is just a big waste of taxpayer money when we've got somebody sending out Archie Bunker-type letters to school bus drivers."
Portland Public Schools spokeswoman Courtney Westling told the Wilamette Weekly in a statement that the school district will change its guidelines following the outcry from parents.
We regret the way this was communicated. Our intent is to limit student exposure to religious teachings, profanity and violent lyrics. The transportation department will be revising its guidance to bus drivers shortly to be more inclusive of different genres of music.
Portland, the whitest major city in the United States (76% of the population is white, according to the 2010 census) and the city that's been gentrified more than any other in the U.S. in the past decade, has a history of targeting rap and hip-hop music.
"I will not perform in this city as long as the blatant targeting of black culture and minorities congregating is acceptable common practice," rapper Illmaculate wrote on Twitter in 2104, after his show was interrupted by police:
Soon after, The Oregonian reported, the city's Independent Police Review conducted an investigation into the police department's treatment of hip-hop artists after artists complained that police were unfairly targeting their shows. The report blamed the hostile relationship between police and hip-hop artists on bad communication.