Villa students receive criticism after racist Snapchat posts

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 10:55 AM

On Sept. 27, Villa Maria Academy administration sent home letters to students’ families from Villa Maria, Cathedral Preparatory School and Mother Teresa Academy after several screenshots of racist Snapchat posts made by Villa Maria students spread across the region.

One of the posts used the word N*****; the other was a picture of a black boy with a caption that read: “Just bought a slave. might sell him tho.”
The letter sent home to parents addressing the issue claimed that “racism has no place” in the school and that “these postings made on social media are appalling and directly contradict the values and teachings we work to promote in our students.”

The names of the students have not been released, and Villa is also “not permitted to disclose the details of [the] punishment/disciplinary actions taken by the school.”

Anne-Marie Welsh, the director of communications for the Erie Catholic Diocese, made a statement on behalf of the Diocese to Erie News Now, stating they were “shocked” and “dismayed” regarding the situation. She reassured the public that “this does not reflect what we expect from students in a Catholic school.”

More importantly, the Diocese hopes for what we all hope for: “that in addition to addressing the immediate situation, Villa will work to educate its students on the seriousness of this issue,” said Welsh, again courtesy of Erie News Now.

The students involved likely face consequences that will have effects on their college applications and possibly their future jobs. In addition, they face the anger of their peers and those of the Erie County community. But there’s something even more important to consider.

In making these comments, they overlook the adversity African Americans have faced for 400 years.

To be African American is to come from an influential, powerful culture. To be African American typically means to have ancestors that were kidnapped, forced to cross an ocean and beaten into submission. There is an undeniable pride in the black community, but history has left scars on our bodies and minds that are carried from generation to generation.

Four-hundred years ago, in 1619, the first slaves were brought to Virginia. Completely stripped of their liberties by white men who whipped them, these men also infected them with disease, raped them and sold them as property.

It was a 240-year-old American tradition to have black and brown people brought to this country on overcrowded boats, but in 1859 the ships stopped coming, and in 1863 Abraham Lincoln gave us freedom. This was even though 75 years prior the Founding Fathers signed the U.S. Constitution that declared all men were created equal.

Thomas Jefferson signed that Constitution, then went home to rape and impregnate his house slave, Sally Hemings.

After 1863, and legally gaining our freedom, we still found ourselves at the hands of the white man. Jim Crow laws stopped us from voting and legally allowed those who lacked our glorious melanin gene to discriminate against us. White women belittled black women in the household while they raised their white children. Lynches were a suitable family event. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) roamed the streets. The houses of civil rights leaders, like Martin Luther King Jr., were burned to the ground. Yet through this all we continued to survive to see another day, raise our families and change the course of history.

New laws stopped Jim Crow, for the most part, but others would then lead to the mass incarceration of the black man. In the late 1980s, the law set a precedent that allowed for our little brothers to be incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit when “The Central Park Five” were sent to prison.

In a modern era, we still continue to face mass incarceration and police brutality while President Donald Trump allows for members of the KKK and neo-Nazis to come out of hiding and spread their racist propaganda.

In those 400 years, the black community rallied to change segregation laws and kept the southern economy booming by providing cotton, tobacco and sugarcane in the 1800s. We changed the course of American music with our additions and creations in jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, hip-hop and rap. We educated the nation with our contributions during the Harlem Renaissance. We fought in wars, we made a difference in legislation and we have changed the law. We have accomplished all of this while a whole nation of people abused us in every way possible.

While some of this history may be brutal and violent, this is an indelible part of the American story that students and young people can’t ignore. And if the students at fault here had respect for this history or this country, which was built on the backs of black people, they would have been more mindful of their words.

To be young is no longer an excuse for their generation. Globally, we are seeing teenagers look to change the world and fight in arenas such as climate change and equality for all. Their generation unfortunately doesn’t get the luxury of being ignorant.

We have to do better to remind them that the world is watching their every move. These students need to do better. Their teachers need to do better. Maybe even the church needs to do better.

Matthew 22:37-39 is about love. The words so well-known that even those who don’t belong to the church abide by them: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first great commandment. And the second us like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

As Americans, no one can ignore the black community’s history, and no one can ignore our culture and our resilience. No matter your age.
This moment has undoubtedly changed these students’ lives. As they walk with this shame on their shoulders, we can only hope they have learned from this mistake.

You cannot change the past, and as the black community has proven, you don’t have to let it define your future. Use it to push you forward to do better.

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