by Dustin Selbert
White privilege seems to be back in season.
There are those Fyre Festival documentaries on Netflix and Hulu, which showed us how lightly a charismatic white man gets punished for scamming millions of dollars out of rich and poor people. Now we’re asked to feel bad about our “harsh response” toward a bunch of white Catholic high school kids despite having all the video that depicts them being nakedly racist toward a Native American tribal elder during converging rallies in Washington D.C..
Nick Sandmann, a student from Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School, became the punchable white face of the whole affair when video circulated of him standing directly in front of elder Nathan Phillips as he drummed and chanted. Sandmann has what appears (to everyone) to be a smirk as his classmates antagonized Phillips in the background; MAGA hats sit atop the heads.
Certainly, it’s that last factor that provoked the Trumpster Fire himself to throw support behind the MAGA hat-wearing kids, joining every other right-wing conservative falling over themselves to “protect” these future Republicans from the evil clutches of the left.
The images from the initial video provoked a visceral response from anyone who acknowledges exactly what white people have stolen in this country. But does Phillips, a representative of an exceedingly scarce population of people, get to tell his side of the story in detail on a national platform like the TODAY show? Nope, but Sandmann gets the opportunity to defend himself and his classmates.
Savannah Guthrie’s TODAY interview of Sandmann is the latest in what seems like an effort from many media outlets to explain that the encounter might be more “complicated” than that initial video. Several other videos depict a conflict between the students and a few Black Hebrew Israelites. However, there’s more than enough video to show these kids acting like complete asses toward Phillips, who seemed genuinely interested in de-escalating the brewing conflict.
It’s frustrating to see Sandmann land a platform that wasn’t even afforded to Phillips (who was reduced to a quick soundbite on the TODAY segment). It’s even more frustrating when one considers that the families of countless high-profile victims of police violence aren’t awarded such a platform.
Whether or not Sandmann sought to antagonize Phillips with his smarmy smile, his interview certainly feels like it was scripted by the public relations firm his family hired to get in front of the situation. Sandmann is virtually devoid of emotion and seems to deliver incredibly measured responses, several of which are clear bullshit.
Guthrie is understandably getting the business for delivering an interview that would make Trump’s press team proud. Let’s unpack the segment, shall we?
“I wish he would’ve just walked away:” Sandmann insists that he was, above all else, interested in diffusing the escalating tension at the Lincoln Memorial. Look, standing in someone’s grill is the universal language of starting mess – it doesn’t matter if you’re from the gulliest hood on the south side of Chicago or a little Podunk Kentucky town just south of Cincinnati. The next time you get arrested from a fight that started with you getting in someone’s face, try telling the cops that you hoped he would just walk away.
“It’s a Catholic school. They don’t tolerate racism and none of my classmates are racist people” This is like me saying none of my neighbors care much for wearing underwear outdoors. I may have some association with them, but how the f— would I know what’s in their hearts? The videos themselves, which depict the kids doing tomahawk chops and mocking chants (and one kid screaming, “It’s not rape if you enjoy it!”) tell an entirely different story. (They were in D.C. for an anti-abortion rally). Sandmann may as well have told Guthrie that the sky is red.
“I didn’t want to be disrespectful to Mr. Phillips and walk away if he was trying to talk to me.” Sandmann’s response when Guthrie asks him why he didn’t walk away suggests that he just wanted to talk to Phillips, no disrespect intended. B—-, if you wanted to talk to Phillips, why didn’t you open your mouth instead of smiling in his face like a simpleton?
“They initiated their comments, they provoked us into a peaceful response of school spirit.” The whole drama is being framed as the Covington boys responding to aggressive behavior from the Black Hebrew Israelites. But Sandmann suggests that their adult handler said it was okay for the boys to respond to the Israelites with “school spirit.” I want someone to usher an adult on camera to admit that he/she gave the students the green light to act as they did – that’s the idiot who deserves this Summer Jam screen for real.
Hebrew Israelite portrayal: I’m not here to defend Black Hebrew Israelites since I’ve been annoyed by them virtually every time I cross their paths in public. But the TODAY segment portrayed the Israelites as an increasingly radical group and played segments with them yelling obscenities. Their behavior was likely inexcusable, but why do I have to go elsewhere to see and hear all the ridiculous shit the white kids were saying and doing?
Originally on The Grio