Commentary: If You See Something, Say Something

Why are we seeing nooses and Klu Klux Klan outfits in high schools in 2011?

Yet another incident of a noose being used as an instrument of intimidation has been reported, this time in the locker room of Santa Monica High School in California.


It makes me question, when is enough enough? When will schools start being proactive instead of reactive about bullying?


An African-American student is claiming to Santa Monica police that on May 4 he walked into the school wrestling room and found a noose around the neck of a brown practice mannequin. When he went to the locker room to change, two students attacked him in a bear-hug-style position and used a cable and lock to chain him to a locker. He claims the students called him a slave among other names.  


This is just one incident, but who’s to say that other students have not been physically and emotionally bullied because of their race? In fact, in California, Victoria Gray, the mother of the bullied Black wrestler, says that it wasn’t until another parent told her of the incident — a month after it happened — that she learned of the hate crimes her son had experienced. She heard nothing from school officials and had to approach her son for him to confess.  


In an e-mail to parents, the school principal said that the students accused “were given appropriate disciplinary consequences, including suspension,” and that incoming freshmen will receive a racial sensitivity, bullying and hazing workshop at orientation.


Santa Monica High School isn’t the only school where students are being racially mistreated, however. At Alta High school in Sandy, Utah, one student reportedly wore a “Klan-like hoodie” to a pep rally and two others sent around a racist photo depicting a Klan-garbed person standing under a burning cross. On Tuesday, in response to the acts, students received sensitivity training from the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Sure, a once-a-year training is fine, but something needs to be done to prevent hate-crimes from happening year-round. Over 40 years after the civil rights movement, what kind of environment are we fostering where African-American children are still being attacked for their skin color?


Dear schools, dear parents, dear students: For the 2012 school year, I’m going to give you the same message the Metropolitan Transit Authority signs warn me of when seeing a suspicious package in New York: If you see something, say something.


If you hear someone being called a racist insult, say something. If you see someone being physically mistreated, say something.


If we continue to ignore the wrongdoings in our community, next time that noose could be the cause of death for one of our loved ones.


(Photo:Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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