Three Grace College and Seminary employees were fired this month after a work-sanctioned photo drew criticism and accusations of racial insensitivity, The Indianapolis Star reported.
The photo, which drew attention after it was posted on an employee’s Facebook page, shows five white employees posing for a mock rap album cover. It was taken as part of “wrap day,” a themed day for the college’s marketing team that also benignly included wrap sandwiches at lunch.
In the photo, one employee appears to be wearing an Afro wig, and another has “Thug Life” written across his knuckles, as well as a fake tear-drop tattoo. Other employees are wearing hoods, chains and backward baseball caps. In the corner, text spells out “N.G.A.” — shorthand for students and staff that means “not Grace appropriate.”
Evan Kilgore, one of the employees fired and the school’s former special projects director, said the term “N.G.A.” is used jokingly on campus to refer to behavior that the private religious institution deems inappropriate.
“When we named our fake album, we never were implying that how we looked or what were dressed like was ‘not Grace appropriate,’” he told the Star.
Kilgore said he didn’t believe the firings were “handled in the most graceful manner.”
To some of the commenters on the since-deleted photo, however, the image was clearly offensive.
“What point are you trying to make? That you’re gangster, thug or hood? … And the only time they [the terms] seem to be okay is when white people use them to make light or fun of the situation,” one wrote.
Grace College’s president agreed. “Earlier this week, an insensitive and inappropriate photo was posted by a Grace College employee,” Bill Katip wrote in a statement following the firings. “This post elicited a significant amount of criticism, concern and hurt from our alumni, students, parents, friends and others.”
“We must do more to help ensure people of all backgrounds are treated with respect and feel welcome,” Katip said.