(The Root) — We called ourselves "The Nubian Sisters," Nubes for short. There were maybe seven of us, basically the entire eighth-grade population of black female students at my small private school. The "club" wasn't much more than us hanging out by a particular bench during lunch, dressing for gym at the same time and wasting study halls scribbling the names of cute boys in cursive.
Unlike the members of Franklin High School's "White Girls Club," the Nubes didn't have a "sign." We didn't sport T-shirts announcing our exclusive affiliation down the halls or fire off wildly offensive missives on the Internet. But we did feel the need to unite for no other reason than to flaunt our budding self-confidence. For us it wasn't so much about exclusion as it was about declaring ourselves, if only loud enough for those closest to hear.
The thing was, my school was extremely diverse, racially and socioeconomically. I was a scholarship kid, but so was one of my best friends, who was half Chinese and half German. We captained the cheerleading squad together, which was made up of equal parts Asian and black girls. Our coach was Latina. We didn't just tolerate one another; we actually saw one another.
What's most troubling about the recent news out of New Jersey — that a group of white female students decided to not only form a White Girls Club but also tweet racist comments about black students — is that these kids seemed to think themselves clever.
One girl retweeted a fellow student who had tweeted, "the hallways in the high school" along with a "photo of a large group of monkeys or chimpanzees," according to the Home News Tribune, the newspaper that broke the story last month when a concerned student sent in screenshots of the offensive tweets. Other Twitpics show the "#wgc" members "holding up three fingers creating the letter 'W' apparently as a symbol for white." Genius.
More than 100 concerned parents and neighbors attended the Franklin Township Board of Education meeting at the end of April to address the issue of the club, which had been written about in several local papers, sparking debates online and off about how the community addressed race.
Superintendent Edward Q. Seto said that the school board instructed him to continue to investigate the club, which was not officially sanctioned by Franklin High School, and that one student had already been disciplined.
"This is probably one of the most hurtful things I have ever experienced in my life," she said. "I have been friends with these girls, and it makes me feel as if I've done something personally wrong as a black woman. I also see that these girls are not remorseful.
"The students at Franklin High School are angry," she continued. "I hear the threats that these girls are getting, and the more people continue to not talk about it and sweep things under the rug [the worse it's getting]."
Race, or more specifically the ways in which we perpetuate the mythology of race, is a complex issue, one that rarely gets the airtime it should among adult circles, let alone in the self-segregating cliques of children. Add to that the false safety of the term "postracial," which implies that race is just sooooo last century. If that's the case, then it's cool to be racist in the same way as the girls in the White Girls Club.
According to some reports, the club started as a "joke" between friends, and some believe it's been blown out of proportion by the local media. It's clear that students like the one who spoke at the school board meeting didn't find tweets like "Al Sharpton ain't gonna save your ass now" and "Sometimes I wonder if I crossed a line, but then I remember I'm white and I can do whatever the [expletive] I want" funny in the least.
And lest we throw the entire student body out with the baddies, those who took a stand and reported the club and its offensive tweets to officials are examples of kids who get it — not the joke but the punch line. They realized quickly that forming a group as incendiary as the White Girls Club isn't some clever commentary on postracial exclusivity; it's a direct shot at those already in the line of fire.
Joke or not, the impulse to flaunt racial privilege like a badge of honor is far from tongue in cheek. If not kept in check, the members of the White Girls Club could quite easily take their bad example with them past graduation to college, the workforce and beyond.