Protect the Tormented, Not the Tormentor

Protect the Tormented, Not the Tormentor

Correction: This article previously mentioned that the student’s coaches reviewed the situation. This is not the case as they were not made fully aware of the situation. Those references have been removed.

Editor’s Note: As you read the following commentary, we remind you to focus not on the incident, but rather on the message this piece contains. 


On the week of October 11, 2016 I was informed of a situation, and shown pictures, of a white, DHS student-athlete posting on a private Instagram account, in blackface. The student captioned the picture, “My true self is revealed”, and then further captioned the picture  “#blacklivesmatter”, making fun of the controversial activist group created in response to unarmed black men being killed by police officers in our country’s streets. The same student also uploaded a picture of overweight black women being compared to hippopotamuses, targeting black women for their appearance, weight, and color and attempting to make a correlation between them and wild beasts.

The significance of these posts rides deep into our country’s history.

The history of blackface started with a white man named Thomas “Daddy” Rice, who was a struggling theater performer, during the 1800s. One day after encountering a black man singing a catchy song about a man named Jim Crow, Rice became inspired. Rice decided that at his next show, he would take up the identity of “Jim Crow”, sing the new tune, and paint his face with burnt cork, so that his skin color would now resemble that of a black person’s. Rice’s act was successful.

To make things clear: he made his money as a “comical” performer who entertained by stealing and exploiting the black American heritage and making fun of blacks and their “uneducated”, “savage-like”, and “stupid” characteristics (as said by the prejudiced people of the time). His character’s name, Jim Crow, even became a racial slur and inspired the title used for black codes; Jim Crow Laws (commonly known as segregation).

In addition, the posting of black women being compared to hippopotamuses is directly related to the popular yet infamous action of comparing blacks to animals, such as monkeys, in the 20th century. Though this act is still extremely apparent today, it peaked in the 1900s, when black people were portrayed as monkeys on public postcards, comics, and cartoons and where celebrities like Jackie Robinson, faced horrible people who often referred to them as “ape”, “monkey”, “chimp”, and or mimicked their actions in monkey-like ways. The hippopotamus is no different in its racist intent.

This is OUR place, this is OUR campus, these are OUR classmates, these are OUR everyday issues, and how we act is a direct reflection of OUR character.

Despite the racist implications, and due to the administration’s lack of jurisdiction, the student was not suspended. Zero consequences came about for this student’s behavior, as one of the student’s friends even yelled “F*** a Finsta”, completely reveling in the administration’s failed attempt to punish this young adult and publicly endorsing the student’s behavior. These actions are what encourage the initial issues and what cause people to think that these “jokes” are okay to make. These students delivered a message that yelled loud and proud to everyone that the racist behavior explained above should be dismissed, that it should be forgotten or let go.

Still, I think the problem goes far beyond the young-adults mentioned; I think the true problem in all of this is the silence. And not only in this situation, but throughout our whole campus. For example, many students knew about this issue long before I did, yet no one said anything. Many students know about this issue now, yet no one has said anything. I know that the majority of you recognize the wrongdoings that take place on this campus, but many of you feel too “uncomfortable” or “out of place” to stand up. Well, let me tell you something, Dublin High School: this is OUR place, this is OUR campus, these are OUR classmates, these are OUR everyday issues, and how we act is a direct reflection of OUR character. What does this incident, and our inaction in response to it, say about us?

It is silence, and the feeling that there are no repercussions, that allow the wrong doers to do wrong. In order to stop racial insensitivity, we must all make it clear to our friends, classmates, and peers that this is not what we stand for, that this is not something that can just be awkwardly laughed off, that this is not something people can just get away with as a “stupid joke”. Saying “too far” is not enough. It is important that we make clear what is right and speak up. It is as simple as commenting, reporting, or telling the person it’s not okay. I know sometimes it’s scary to stand up, but it’s even scarier what these actions lead to when they aren’t stopped. So please, I ask you all to just say something. Be brave. Be bold. Do what is right.

As Holocaust survivor, Night author, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel once said: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”




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