Adults, not teens, at fault in harassment

Published 12:47 am Wednesday, January 23, 2019

This is a column I sat with, chewed on, meditated about and tried my best to find a reason not to write it. Ah, but sometimes this muse inside me won’t shut up and keeps pushing words into my head.

The other night I was sipping my green tea when my daughter switched the television to the news. Suddenly, I found myself in the middle of a story about a bunch of male students from a Catholic school in Kentucky allegedly harassing a Native American Vietnam veteran during a protest in Washington D.C lead by indigenous people.

I was horrified at the video that showed the veteran playing a drum surrounded by MAGA hat wearing young men. The report said they were chanting, “Build That Wall.”

My first thought was, “Well of course they are chanting that phrase.”  I admit I based my judgment largely on the caps they wore. I was more than ready to accept what I saw in that video.

Further cementing my outrage over the incident were the posts and shared stories on Facebook. Then there was the apology issued from the boys own Catholic diocese.

Man, I was upset and ready to see them punished for their behavior. It’s actually frightening how much unkindness I directed at these kids — and they are kids.

Then another story emerged. In it, the students were victims of harassment as much as they were harassers.  The boy at the center of the firestorm issued a statement containing an entirely different account of what happened.

Now, I felt confused. So, I watched the longest video, one hour and 46 minutes, of what transpired that day. It starts before the students arrive in front of the Lincoln Memorial to wait for their buses.

I won’t go into a description of the entire video. What I saw was a group of black men calling themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites doing a fair amount of harassing indigenous people before the Catholic student’s arrival. When then kids showed up, the nastiness extended to them, and it was nasty.

I’m not arguing over whether or not these boys are spoiled or entitled. I don’t know them, but in that video, I did not see them act menacing toward anyone. They acted like kids at times, teenage kids — teenage boys.

I saw a lot of adults engaging in less than positive ways. I heard ugly language from men who said they were there with a message from God.

As I said, I don’t know what’s in the hearts of these boys, but I think they are in the middle of something blown way out of proportion. (With those words, I probably lost liberal Facebook friends.) I wonder if hats hadn’t identified them as Trump supporters, would the story be different or even a story.

What bothers me most are the comments directed at these young men on social media. There are adults calling them awful names, predicting they are going to be horrible grownups.

Tell me how that helps anything. What kind of example does that set? If these students have issues with how they see people of color or females or any of the things that people are saying about them, how does insulting them do one thing positive?

Did anger and hate ever create less anger and hate? I am sick of all of it, and I want some in the media to make sure they have the whole story before reporting it.

People know that I lean more toward a liberal mindset, but I don’t want to lean so far in one direction, I only see and automatically believe what supports my way of thinking. That’s dangerous no matter what mindset you have.

That this took place so close to MLK Day seems ironic. So, I’ll close this column that I really didn’t want to write with a quote from Dr. King.

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.