By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]
With brazen disregard for their African American peers, two White students at a Montgomery County high school posted images of themselves in blackface to social media under a disparaging caption.
The caption starts with, “We’re Ni—-ers” and concludes with “Y’all got problems.”
The two students posted the picture last weekend and it was seen by a large social media audience primarily from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. This post was reportedly seen and shared by other students, parents and other members of that community. This potentially incendiary incident was reported to Montgomery County Police forcing Principal Robert E. Dodd to send a letter home to parents addressing the issue but no charges have been filed.
Two White students from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda posted a picture wearing black makeup on their faces and using the N-word in their caption. (By EnLorax G. Edward Johnson – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5685643)
“Acts of racism are unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Walt Whitman,” Dodd wrote. “I ask that all parents discuss with their child the critical importance of respecting others, the dangers related to posting on social media, and the far-reaching consequences for both the perpetrator and those targeted by damaging racial incidents.”
The principal also said he would be meeting with other officials to develop a plan to address racism and inequality. Students in the school’s Minority Scholars Program will be present to share the difficulties minority students face at the school.
Two thirds of the school’s population are demographically identified as White. According to Bethesda Magazine 67 percent of Whitman’s student body identify themselves as white and only five percent are Black according to Montgomery County School System data.
White students casually playing the race card in Montgomery County is not an anomaly. In 2017, two students were reprimanded for calling one of their Black classmates a racial slur. During a Black History Month assembly this year, Black students were mocked by their white counterparts. Also in February, several students at Winston Churchill High School were caught handing out “N-word passes” to other students, implying they had corporate permission to use the offensive term. In March, a fifth-grader at Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda found a swastika drawn on a stall in the boys’ bathroom.
This epidemic of racially bias peer insensitivity has reached the Montgomery County Council, where President Nancy Navarro issued a statement admonishing this toxic culture of behavior.
“These actions are not representative of the high expectations we have for all of our students who attend MCPS, and we stand with the school administration in holding those accountable for these offensive actions,” Navarro said.
Navarro also held a meeting with students at Gaithersburg High School to discuss racism and cultural diversity. She reportedly stated the County’s ongoing work to mold “racial equity legislation.”
Dodd reportedly scheduled a Tuesday meeting with high-ranking school officials to discuss racial intolerance, review data and develop a plan to address racism, inequities and cultural competency. The school system’s student code of conduct outlines consequences that range from community service and peer mediation to expulsion for students who participate in racist behavior.
“Unfortunately, this most recent incident is another indication that this work needs to be intensified so that all of our students feel safe and valued each day,” Dodd wrote.