It’s been a tense Spirit Week at one New Jersey high school, where a group of students thought it was appropriate to wear Confederate-flag gear and use racial slurs just because their classmates were protesting racial inequality and racism they’ve experienced at the school.
According to NJ.com, Gloucester County Institute of Technology administrators, faculty and students from the African American Culture Club met with Gloucester County NAACP President Loretta Winters on Monday to discuss the ongoing tension and to work on what changes could be made.
Spirit Week began last Wednesday with “America Day,” and students were asked to show off their patriotism and wear red, white and blue. Racial tensions at the school came to a head when students from the AACC decided to wear black in silent protest and in support of Black Lives Matter. The students said that they “were as a whole frustrated and fed up” with dealing with racism at the school.
“We the students came together and made the decision of wearing black to silently protest what is happening, to demand equality and fairness as an American, and to unite together as one,” a statement from the club read.
The silent protest got traction on social media, and the backlash came swift for the students. Some other students at the school criticized them for drawing attention away from Spirit Week. One classmate bid other students to wear Confederate-flag gear in response, and the black students decided to continue wearing black because, you know, their classmates were just clearly demonstrating what they were trying to stand up against.
“Many have been called the n-word to their face,” the club members said at the meeting with Winters. “Someone was told if they don’t like discrimination, they should bleach their skin. Others have been spit on.”
The students in the African American Culture Club took screenshots of the racist screenshots from other students’ social posts. Some of those students defended wearing the Confederate flag, with one person saying that it was “supporting the South,” while another told a student to “learn their history,” the news site notes.
“Students have also been verbally abusing African American Culture Club members by saying ‘Go back to Africa’ and using derogatory statements such as [the n-word],” the students at the meeting said.
School principal Jamie Dundee sent out a letter to parents Friday that cited an ongoing investigation.
“The administration was informed of various comments that were of an alarming nature,” Dundee wrote. “As the investigation unfolded, we learned that a group of students posted comments over social media that contained racial and defaming slurs.”
Gloucester County Special Services School District Superintendent Mike Dicken declined to confirm how many students were facing discipline, but he did say that the school was “moving forward” after the incidents, according to the news site.
Nonetheless, Dicken called Monday’s meeting with the NAACP “a really positive meeting about culture and climate.”
Winters said school officials made a commitment to racial equity at the meeting, and hopes that students who wore the Confederate flag can grow to understand why it may upset black classmates. The African American Culture Club later met with students who wore the flag to exchange perspectives.
“The Confederate flag is to the black community as the Swastika is to the Jewish community,” she said, noting that there are feelings of “pain and suffering” that it brings up.
“It’s the flag used by the KKK, and they’re a terrorist group,” she said. “People need to be educated on what the Confederate flag stands for and what it means. ... How do you support that? How do you support any terrorist group?”
Read more at NJ.com.