Did Covington Catholic cross the line?

Did Covington Catholic cross the line?

A recent viral video has brought a young high school boy and his companions under fire. Adorned in their Make America Great Again hats, the students of Covington Catholic High School were accused of mocking an indigenous performer, a man of Native American descent. This occurred during their visit to Washington, D.C., where they encountered Nathan Phillips, a man performing outside of the Lincoln Memorial. Many varied accounts of this story have popped up all across social media and news sites.

The left wing paints the boys as privileged and entitled brats who mocked an elder. The right wing cites the boys as innocent bystanders who were incited by companions nearby. There appears to be some merit to both stories. I remember when I first saw the video, I was conflicted, because I thought that Nick Sandmann, a Covington Catholic student in the video, was confrontational.

Sandmann clearly stands in Phillips space, making eye contact with him as he plays. It didn’t seem like he was doing it for interest or respect. However, as different footage emerged, it is shown that a group of black Israelites were calling out horrible insults to the boys and the performers alike. Sandmann claimed that he did not mean to disrespect Phillips, but he was attempting to show that he wasn’t going to let the situation anger him.

The original video of the incident has been retweeted and posted with a thousand different variations. However, the most common tweet that has been circulating, refers to Sandmann and his friends as MAGA losers with no real substance. The narrative toward them became viral and vicious as celebrities retweeted and reposted the MAGA losers statement. Naturally, the Republican party, including President Trump, showed their support for Sandmann.

It has become apparent to me that it no longer matters what happened the day Sandmann and his classmates interacted with Phillips. The real story is the social media firestorm that has erupted since the incident–which started with the false tagline posted under the original video–and the horrific social media threats that have been brought against Covington Catholic. Liberals and conservatives have used this incident as a way to push their own hateful agendas on each other. It’s a political game at its lowest, and it unfortunately reflects our country’s climate today.

Update from the author, 4/19/21:

In a year where accountability and acknowledging one’s privilege have been on the forefront of everyone’s minds, I wanted to reflect on an opinion piece that I wrote for the Greyhound my sophomore year. This was bad journalism. I had set out to write a piece about the aftermath of a charged confrontation that had occurred between Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandman, and Omaha Native American Nathan Phillips. I wanted the piece to be more about how different narratives erupted on social media, using this event as a catalyst to push political agendas. However, what I wrote was a highly privileged take, where I briefly skated over the basis of what happened, providing minimal detail. In doing that, I was neglectful towards the parties that were impacted during this event, Nathan Phillips in particular, who was vehemently disrespected on that day. I am a white woman, so I will never understand the nature of that disrespect and hate that was felt by Phillips. However, as someone who aspires to be a journalist someday, I have a responsibility to consider the lens I hav e on everything I write about, because it’s based off of my own unconscious biases. I felt it necessary to examine my own past work, and reflect on how it was shaped by my own personal experiences and perspective. I hope that is something everyone can consider, as we move forward and elevate stories that need to be told.