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Racism Won’t Die With Old White Men Because Kids Are Still Learning To Be Racists

McDowell_High_WYV

North Carolina kids built a Trump-inspired wall but didn’t see it as racism.

Some citizens in our body politic believe that racism will end when old white men — who relished in abusing Blacks and Brown people during the era of Jim Crow — die off and are replaced by newer, younger generations of whites who interact with groups from different backgrounds in a more tolerant way. If you ask them to explain how exactly society will achieve this, the answer will almost certainly touch on education. They point to diversity in the schoolyard and emphasize the colorblind manner in which students are bonding with one another.

Nine times of out 10, they probably don’t have North Carolina’s McDowell High School — located in Marion, five quarter miles from Charlotte — in mind as one of the scholastic incubators for these new whites.

Back in May, 30 white high school seniors at McDowell decided to show off what this new era is teaching them about race and ethnicity. For their senior prank, they channeled their inner Donald Trump and built a wall out of cardboard boxes.

According to this San Antonio report, the “wall” was designed to “block access to a common area.” Needless to say, the Latinx students attending McDowell were not too happy.

To capture the moment, the students Instagrammed a photo of themselves in front of their makeshift “wall” marked with the caption, “WE BUILT THE WALL FIRST.”

McDowell’s students even pushed to include Trump’s logo on the picture but were advised against it by their Principal, Edwin Spivey. They opted, instead, for a variety of hashtags that featured Trump’s name.

Of course, school officials stuck to their guns and dismissed the accusation that these white students intended to insult anyone, least of all their Latinx classmates. In a show of good faith, no student faced disciplinary action.

Lest we believe that this is an isolated incident, similar behavior has occurred in other high schools. Forest Grove High, in the Portland, Oregon, metro area, furnishes an immediate example.

People are not born harboring hatred toward a specific group. Racism is learned — in the home, in the streets, in our schools.

If school officials at McDowell see no problem with what their white students did, what reason have we to believe that racism is getting any better or that — as a society — we’re not moving backward?

Is this a sign that old, racist white men can die peacefully knowing that their values will live on in the generations to follow?

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Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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