Yesterday, in illustrating my largely “they’re-in-our-division” hatred for the Kansas City Chiefs, I brought up a story that I thought by now would have fizzled out because of common sense and decency. Nicholas Sandmann, the sneering teen made famous for squaring off against Native elder Nathan Phillips over the weekend in Washington D.C., is apparently meeting with Donald Trump in the White House tomorrow as part of the far-right’s active measures campaign to spin the narrative of the Covington Catholic school kids as victims of media bias and a left-wing mob mentality. It’s a predictable extension of the story and one a variety of outlets have fallen for in their hand-wringing about whether or not it’s OK to throw this young bigot and his friends under the bus.
As the waters of the story are muddied, it’s important to understand the basic facts before analyzing exactly what is happening with the rest of the narrative. Sandmann and other students from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky were flown into D.C. to attend the annual March for Life anti-abortion demonstration, where many of them chose to deck themselves out in Make America Great Again regalia. This happened to fall on the same day as the second Women’s March in D.C., also commemorating the ruling on Roe v Wade as well as a protest by indigenous people against the longstanding and continued marginalization of Native Americans.
Evidently either encouraged by chaperones or due to a complete lack of supervision (pick one), the students moved around National Mall in a large group, where they catcalled women, yelled right-wing slogans, and said things like “it’s not rape if you enjoy it”. This caught the attention of a group of Black Israelites, a fixture in many east coast cities notorious for aggressive, street-level proselytizing who began to heckle the group of “future school shooters” as “Donald Trump incest babies.” This interaction apparently got heated and the Native people moved to deescalate the situation, which is when the Covington students famously mocked the Native elder by doing tomahawk chop gestures, mocking “war cries” and even a Maori-inspired “school Haka” not unfamiliar at US sporting events.
Now, even engaging with the Black Israelites is a mistake akin to trying to have a nuanced debate with the Westboro Baptist Church or arguing with Scientologists, but that’s neither here nor there. These kids were roaming D.C. as a brownshirted mob, harassing women, Native and black people well before the escalation that peaked with the students chanting “Build the Wall” at Mr. Phillips. Using the Black Israelite apparent “aggression” as a an excuse for these kids is blatantly racist spin. It’s frankly unsurprising that a decades-old group notorious for yelling on street corners, unprompted, that white people are a race of demons created by an evil scientist on a Greek island chose to engage with a mob of youth screaming at Native people that they’re “drunken thieves” and that black people should “go back to Africa”. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. In no way does any of the par-for-the-course behavior exhibited by the Black Israelites excuse the frothing frenzy exhibited towards Nathan Phillips. Continue reading →