January 22, 2019


Surely if Sandmann’s objective had been to harass the Native Americans and sow racial discord, he would not have attempted to defuse the situation. In fact, this gesture supports the claim he made in his official statement that he “motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions.”

That’s just one moment from the video footage. There are others. There’s the moment when the Black Hebrew Israelites, a black nationalist cult, tells one of the few black teens that his friends are going to kill him and steal his organs, and a young white man turns to his classmate, touches him affectionately, and says, “But we love you!” There’s the moment when the black nationalists declare that “your president is a homosexual” and a high school kid responds, “Who cares?” There’s the moment when some of the teens begin to suspect that Phillips has not waded into their midst with the best of intentions (he would later assert to media reporters that the teens were “beasts” and the cult members “their prey,” a false and possibly willful misreading of the situation) and one shouts, “I’m so confused.”

There are also moments that cast some of the teens in a less-than-favorable light. At least one appears to make a tomahawk chop—an offensive gesture from sporting events in which team names have been taken from Native American culture. That is insensitive behavior that an adult in a position of authority over these young men should discourage in the future.

But most of the Covington kids do not perform tomahawk chops. Most jump, wave their arms, and cheer—and many do so before Phillips arrives. Their stated explanation—they were attempting to drown out the torrent of hate coming from the Black Hebrew Israelites—makes sense, and it squares with the timeline evident from the video.

Read the whole thing.

Related: “Why has the conduct of the black nationalists escaped notice while that of the Covington students has been unfairly denounced? I think it’s due, in large part, to the identity politics hierarchy.”

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