AP NEWS

Michigan students highlight racism after group chat incident

January 29, 2020 GMT
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Karamba Kaba talks about his experience during a Saline School board meeting Tuesday Jan. 28, 2020, Liberty School in Saline, Mich. African American students at a predominantly white Detroit area school district told school board members that racist comments posted online this week by fellow students are disturbing but reflect the kind of insults they commonly face both inside and out of school. (Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP)
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Karamba Kaba talks about his experience during a Saline School board meeting Tuesday Jan. 28, 2020, Liberty School in Saline, Mich. African American students at a predominantly white Detroit area school district told school board members that racist comments posted online this week by fellow students are disturbing but reflect the kind of insults they commonly face both inside and out of school. (Nicole Hester/Ann Arbor News via AP)

SALINE, Mich. (AP) — Black students at a predominantly white suburban Detroit high school say they are commonly subjected to racist remarks like those that white classmates posted online this week.

During the Saline board of education’s meeting on Tuesday, Saline High School teacher Matt Hamilton read a statement from senior student Noah Nelson, who is biracial. Nelson said that white schoolmates regularly subjected him to racial slurs, both during and outside of school, and that a teacher humiliated him by comparing him to a monkey during class.

“This behavior occurs daily and racist imagery can be found everywhere. Most students and adults don’t even realize that what they’re saying is racist,” Nelson said.

Board President Heidi Pfannes said the community’s pervasive racial issues are disappointing.

“It is our responsibility as adults in this community to demonstrate the values we’re attempting to teach our children,” she said. “If we could each step back and consider how we want our kids to treat one another, we must first look at ourselves in the mirror. Are we being the people we want our kids to be?”

Superintendent Scot Graden said in a letter to parents that the district was made aware of the racist online comments on Monday, calling the comments “disturbing.”

After an investigation, administrators determined the comments, which were posted late Sunday, represented “an act of racism that created harm to all of our students, especially students of color,” wrote Graden, who didn’t disclose whether any of the offending students had been punished.

The messages, which included slurs derogatory toward black people, were posted in a Snapchat group that was given the name “Racist” with two gorilla emojis after black students joined. In addition to the anti-black slurs, one non-black student posted messages including “WHITE POWER” and “THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN.”

Student Regan Cox, who is white, told the school board that she was demoralized by the incident in light of the recent efforts by her peers to make the district feel more diverse and inclusive.

“Being within a community with such little diversity, it is important that we take accountability for our actions, even when it includes our friends, teammates and fellow students committing ... the action,” Cox said. “Being a part of the white majority, it does not stand as a barrier for me to understand the wrongdoing that happened and to know that we need to support our students of color, especially at a time like this.”