The videos of a 16-year-old student at Columbia’s Cardinal Newman School firing 30 rounds of ammunition into a box he says represents “a black man” — at one point saying “our n—– hasn’t quite learned his lesson yet; it seems like he needs 25 rounds to the dome” — are being condemned the nation over. I’m sure they’re also being praised, on those vile racist platforms most of us wouldn’t even know how to find. They’re painful to watch.
Most of the kids I chaperone on my parish’s annual mission work trip attend Cardinal Newman. I can’t imagine that any of them would make a video like this. But would they immediately alert their parents if they received it? And would their parents immediately alert the school? I have no idea. And that’s frightening.
The boy’s defenders have suggested this was some kind of sick joke — a contest to see who could produce the most shocking video. If so, we’ve got to get the message to kids that it’s not funny. That’s mainly the responsibility of parents. But schools also have a role to play, particularly Roman Catholic schools, which parents presumably expect to teach their kids to be followers of Christ.
Despite what you might think by listening to some people who pretend to be Christians while wallowing in cesspools of hatred, there is nothing Christian about the idea that it’s OK even to think of people differently based on their race — much less implicitly threaten to kill them.
Police said they couldn’t arrest the boy for the racist videos; they arrested him for a third communication, in which he allegedly threatened to “shoot up” the school.
That’s prompted calls from state legislators for a S.C. hate-crimes law. But the two bills introduced this year, like most hate-crime laws, wouldn’t have made what the boy said on those two videos a crime. He made implicit, generalized threats, not a threat to injure a specific person.
But there’s a deeper issue here than whether it’s illegal to produce racist videos. As a friend asked about that adolescent-competition defense, “Which is more shocking: The threatened violence, or the fact that our society is so sick that children could conceive of such a competition?”
What kind of messages do we send children when we complain that minorities get benefits they don’t deserve? Or always feel the need to identify the race of the person they’re talking about — when that person isn’t white? Do we think kids don’t notice that overt racists no longer feel the need to hide and leading political figures mimic their ideas?
Those on the left shouldn’t pretend the danger is only from the right. No, extremists on the left don’t generally hate black people, and there haven’t been nearly as many mass killings by leftists — yet. But a growing number of people on both the left and the right now hate those who don’t share their worldview, consider them subhuman. And that’s where it starts.
Columbia TV station WLTX has posted segments of the videos with the boy’s face scrambled so you can’t tell who he is. You need to watch them. Then watch them with your kids. Talk to your kids about how this isn’t a joke. And tell them they need to alert you if they ever receive anything even remotely like this.
School officials say those videos weren’t made in May but in July, just a day or two before they contacted the boy’s parents. If they weren’t part of a contest, what were they?
You might also want to let your kids know that in some cases, it’s against the law to stand by quietly when they see such things. Because keeping red flags to yourself — and this was definitely a red flag — can be deadly.
Cindi Ross Scoppe is an editorial writer for The Post and Courier. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook or Twitter @CindiScoppe.