The red, white and black

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I have always supported a person’s right to express their beliefs.

I also believe it should be done in such a way that doesn’t infringe on someone else’s ability to do the same. This is the heart of the problem in the controversy surrounding Covington Catholic High School students, Indigenous rights activists and Black Hebrew Israelites. Understandably, a video that has gone viral on social media showing an apparent confrontation between student Nick Sandmann and Omaha Elder Nathan Phillips sparked outrage throughout North America. Many condemned the students, but there is more to the story.

It is ironic that this took place at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. called for an end to bigotry and racism in the United States. It is equally ironic that the Black Hebrew Israelites were the ones saying the Indigenous Americans lost their lands because their ancestors worshipped evil. Members of this tiny fringe group told Indigenous activists that part of understanding was listening, but it didn’t seem to apply to them. Then they started saying while there were Uncle Toms that the Indigenous activists were “Uncle Tomahawks.”

One of the Israelites claimed that they were indigenous to the Americas. They also had a problem with women “distracting things with their loud-assed mouth because they aren’t used to dealing with real men.” The Israelites’ main problem with the students was that some of them were wearing MAGA (Make America Great Again) baseball caps, equating them with racism. They started calling the students “dirty-ass crackers” whose day was coming. Other statements included “incest babies” and “trailer park babies”.

After an hour or so of this, the students starting singing school spirit chants to drown out the Israelites. Seeing the situation escalate, Phillips took a drum went to the students, beating in time to their chants. Phillips said he was trying to defuse the situation. It was at that point that the confrontation between Sandmann occurred. Yet one video shows that Sandmann motioned to other students not to engage.

Looking at news articles, interviews, video footage and statements, you can see how the tension escalated between personal and religious beliefs.

Marcus Frejo, an Indigenous hip-hop artist known as Quese Imc, said he heard the students making noises that seemed to mock Native American chanting. He also said some of the students sang along with Phillips, which he found hopeful.

Throughout this story I felt a few things. One is that wearing a piece of clothing with MAGA on it is seen as racist because of its association with President Trump and his comments about Hispanics and Muslims. Yet the statement itself is one that some people can take pride in. Making a country great again is something we all would like to achieve.

In this entire situation I would have to say that the only participants without blame were the Indigenous rights activists. The Hebrew Israelites were most at fault for their actions. The chaperons for the students were next as they were the ones who should have dealt with the problem before it escalated. And yes, the students were also to blame, but not all of them. And lastly, the media has its own share of blame, as they did not investigate all of the facts their audience should have been given from the start.

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