When’s the last time you opened the comment section of a Worldstar or YouTube video depicting black kids fighting, shouting or otherwise causing a ruckus and witnessed a plethora of people wondering what happened before the camera started rolling? How many people, in general, do you ever see earnestly seeking further context and back story when teenagers of color are caught right smack in the moment of bad behavior?
Be honest with yourself and answer, “no” because whether you’re watching a few minutes of degenerate behavior online or as you pass it in the streets, young niggas acting bad is what it is and requires no further inquiry.
So, a few days ago, white male students from Covington Catholic High School, in Kentucky, came under fire when a short video surfaced of them taunting and mocking elder native, Nathan Phillips outside the Lincoln Memorial after an anti abortion rally, as he beat his drums and sang. In the clip you could see Phillips surrounded by kids laughing loudly and stereotypically mocking his chant while one student, later identified as Nick Sandmann, stood in his face wearing a smirk that could have you wanting to punch through the screen of your phone right at the mother fucker.
The interwebs appropriately erupted in outrage and scorn, but it took just one day for public opinion (mostly, the melanin deficient side) to do a 180 once extended videos started to surface providing insight on events that transpired before the incident between the students and Phillips occurred. Of course, all the extra context changes nothing about what was going on in the moment, but that, apparently, doesn’t matter.
Since further footage has been released, we’ve learned two new things: that prior to the confrontation in question, the students had gotten into a tense standoff with a small handful of black Israelites (a group anybody from a black city knows to ignore like white woman ignore the “in case of emergency” rule to calling 911) who had been shouting and hurling obscenities at them for and hour or so, and that it was Nathan Phillips who approached the students, not the other way around (or, more accurately, Phillips approached the scene, stepping in between the two opposing groups in hopes of quelling the hostility).
So what’s the argument here exactly? Is it that a small group of black Hebrews (who even Phillips knew to avoid like white folk avoid non standardized versions of American history) were at fault for revving up the racist engines of a bunch of angsty teens? Or that the mere presence of an indigenous man beating on drums and singing peace songs provoked the ignorance, mockery and disrespect of the students? Were they not still perfectly free to ignore him and go on about their business instead of crowding around him with malicious intent? Or are we so delusional that we believe all the laughing and caricature rendition of native chant was meant as a show of solidarity as opposed to ridicule, and that Nick Sandmann standing inches from his face and refusing to budge (a thing no one does unless it is their intent to antagonize) was actually being done in adoration?
In the end we’re all left with two versions of the story: Phillips’ And Sandmann’s.
Phillips says that the boys were, indeed, mocking and taunting him (a thing that is clear in the original video) and that some of them were chanting “build that wall” (which can be heard faintly, but in no way clearly). And he goes on to say, “When the others were moving aside and letting me go, he decided that he wasn’t going to do that. When I was coming up the steps, I seen him start putting himself in front of me, so I slided to the right, and he slided to the right. I slided to the left and he slided to the left — so by the time I got up to him, we were right in front of him. He just positioned himself to make sure that he aligned himself with me, so that sort of stopped my exit.”
Then there’s Sandmann’s side, which is that there was no taunting or mocking (which, again, is clear in the video). Here’s his exact exact words (cue tiny violin): “At no time did I hear any student chant anything other than the school spirit chants,” Sandmann said. “I did not witness or hear any other students chant ‘build that wall’ or anything hateful or racist at any time. Assertions to the contrary are simply false.”
He says that Phillips came toward the group with his drum and, “locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face” and “played his drum the entire time he was in my face.” basically, painting Phillips as the aggressor and himself as the faultless victim.
So who do we believe.
Well, I’m riding with the man whose account of events is mostly evident in the footage and not the one who found himself on the wrong side of public opinion and needed to play clean up.
I’m also not siding with students from a school with a track record of racist and degenerate behavior. Since this controversy began, videos have surfaced showing that students from the same school have been allowed to wear blackface at pep rallies and basketball games while jeering the black members of opposing teams.
And before any of you start with the, “Heyyyyy, what’s with the ‘guilt by association’ crap?” defense, i’ll remind you that whenever some unarmed black youth gets gunned down by police and there’s public outrage, “What about black on black crime?” is all over the tongues of the same types who couldn’t wait for an excuse to defend these students, even though there’s never any evidence that the slain black people in question have been involved in violence against fellow black people. I’ll remind you that muslims and South American immigrants (illegal or otherwise) are also rarely afforded being judged as individuals and not part of a whole. But, oh to be white and to have the benefit of the doubt etched into your skin.
It’s also worth mentioning that there have been recent reports that some of the same kids (allegedly) harassing Phillips were also harassing women who were passing by the same day (which isn’t much of a surprise since they were attending a rally that opposed women’s reproductive rights, but whatever)…
But hey, (white) boys will be boys, am-I-right.