Blair students respond to Walt Whitman students’ racist incident
Scrolling through Snapchat may be an everyday occurrence for some Blair students, but seeing blatant racism is not. When students logged onto Snapchat in late April, they were surprised and horrified to see two Walt Whitman students in blackface using racist slurs. This incident caused widespread upset and highlights the fact that some people still don’t understand the implications of this kind of behavior.
The students posted photos of themselves on Snapchat with the subheading of a vulgar and oppressive word while in blackface. “We are ni**ers,” proclaimed the students in their imitation of black people. People who aren't black often argue, “it’s just a word,” or “if black people can say it, why can’t I?” These arguments represent a catastrophic failure to understand the history and implications of this term.
Historically, the N-word has been used by white people to label black people as less-than-human for hundreds of years. In recent years, black people have taken the word for their own in an act of collective empowerment. When non-black people use this term, they connect themselves back to the oppression and violence black people endure.
The use of blackface is a longstanding mockery of black people. It was used in a way to hyperbolize black stereotypes and make comic of being black. Historically performed stereotypes are of black people acting in criminal, sexually predatory or completely foolish ways. By partaking in this behavior, people are reinforcing the ugliest and most violent stereotypes. Even worse, people participating in this blatantly racist act make black people feel unsafe.
As residents of a very diverse county, many Blazers have something to say about the incident. “[Walt Whitman High School] lives up to its name, White-man,” sophomore Jeremy Masson says. Like most Blazers, Masson finds the incident disturbing and unbelievable, “I felt offended by it and confused as to how people in today's society, in a county that's so diverse, act like that and make insensitive jokes like that,” comments Masson.
While Masson criticizes Walt Whitman's culture, junior Merry Hailegiorgis has a different perspective. “When you're living in an all white area and go to a school with mostly white people, it's very rare that you're going to interact with people of different races,” she says. Hailegiorgis believes that two people's actions should not taint the entire school's reputation. She views the incident as a result of ignorance, “Acts like this are ignorant. Ignorance is not a bad word, it just means you don't know that what you're doing will be perceived in a certain way,” she comments.
As for freshman Natalya Burnett, she believes that acts like these reflect the inhumanity of some people. “Racist incidents like these show how awful some people can be,” she says. Burnett cannot fathom why someone would do this, let alone think it was funny, “I can’t understand how someone would believe saying that is okay and make a joke out of it,” she adds.
It’s shocking to see acts like these in such a diverse community. Behavior like this begs the question of whether or not Montgomery County schools can do more to adequately address the problem of racism.
Sophia Lucarelli. staff writer More »