Racial tensions are high at this point in our history, perhaps bolstered by the presidency of Donald Trump, and signs are starting to show up in our schools with increasing frequency and severity.
A police officer was punched and treated for a concussion at a football game in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, played between Old Mill and North County High Schools on September 27, the Baltimore Sun reports. Unruly spectators got into a fight over clothing bearing slogans that support Mr Trump, and the injured officer was escorting those spectators out. This was just the most recently reported racially motivated assault incident surrounding high school athletics (see here and here, for example).
Part of the problem may be social media. I’m a pretty liberal person, definitely not a supporter of President Trump, and my newsfeed is filled with more statements about how white men are racist and evil than I can shake a stick at.
Now, I have six years of education, after I got two bachelor’s degrees, so I’m not falling for this drivel and propaganda. But high school students don’t have the benefit of my education. Plus, many of them are at a point where they need to “belong” to a group of friends who can validate their adolescent feelings.
Enter the white supremacy movement.
For a high school kid, the kind of casual insulting of white people because of their race and gender, which would be shocking if it were about blacks, lesbians, transgender, or handicapped people, just sort of goes with the flow. Sure, white male privilege exists (see, for example, “From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline” [2007, The Johns Hopkins University Press]), but white liberals don’t feel this way at all. We just spend so much time and so many words trying to include all people that it sometimes seems as if we’re excluding ourselves and others like us (white people).
So to teenagers, it looks as if the world is ripping against white people all the time, which turns them away and sends them running to the camaraderie of white supremacists. And fights break out, and police officers, charged with keeping order, end up in the hospital.
And I feel sorry for educated parents, who have to confront the constant but understated affront from white supremacy on their children’s lives. The comment by Mr Trump, for example, about Joe Biden only being a good vice president because he “kissed Obama’s ass” was one such understated racist attack, to be sure.
This rhetoric is attractive to students, who may initially write it off as a political campaign statement but will, after it sinks in, internalize it as a black man rising above a white man and thus a threat to white domination. Students easily hear these messages and understand, before having the benefit of years of education that calls these statements to the mat in no uncertain terms, that the power of (rich) white males must be defended at all costs.