For a generation that is supposedly so fragile that they need safe spaces and are horrified at the thought of facing opposing viewpoints, some teenaged students seem to be pretty insensitive to the consequences of their own actions on the sensibilities of others, particularly of minorities to whom they don’t belong.
First came the news that a group of Kentucky student-athletes wearing MAGA hats harassed a Native American religious leader while he was chanting a prayer at an Indigenous People’s March in Washington DC. The students, allegedly from Covington Catholic High School where they presumably were taught to behave with respect towards others, were ironically in Washington to attend a “pro-life” march taking place the same day.
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Another pair of high school students engaged in an equally appalling incident in Minnesota when they decided to inject a dose of anti-Semitism into what should have been a perfectly innocent invitation to the annual Sweethearts Valentine’s Day dance.
According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, a teenage boy and girl attending Minnetonka High School were photographed in a Nazi salute with Hitler-themed hand-drawn sign in an Instagram post that drew wide condemnation on social media.
The post’s caption denying anti-Semitism because the poster “hates all races equally” did little to quell the outrage since equal opportunity hatred is no excuse for vile sentiments directed at anyone.
School officials quickly condemned the incident and promised that the perpetrators would be disciplined for their actions.
“While I do not know whether it was an intentionally hateful message or was created out of ignorance, be assured the students will be disciplined for their actions,” Superintendent Dennis Peterson wrote in an e-mail Friday denouncing the post, according to the newspaper.
“The larger issue is that we, as a community, must do an even better job of educating students about Hitler and the Holocaust,” he wrote. “While we do units on this in middle school, and we have had several Holocaust survivors speak at MHS, it has apparently not been enough to prevent yesterday’s incident.”
With the rise in blatant neo-Nazi and white supremacist sentiment on the rise since the “election” of Donald Trump, Jewish students and their parents were shocked and angered when the post showed anti-Semitism active in their midst.
“I’m steaming,” said Wendy Rosenthal, whose daughter is a ninth-grader at Minnetonka High. “They can’t claim they didn’t know that this was offensive.”
The adviser to the school’s Jewish Student Union, Rabbi Tzvi Kupfer, said he was horrified when he was told about the post by his students.
“They said they just don’t feel safe going to school anymore,” said Kupfer, adding that their sense of security had been cracked. “This is not something that should be joked about.”
Apparently, unlike the Kentucky students who mobbed the Native American elder in Washington, the student who made the offensive Instagram post — who remains unidentified due to privacy regulations — has expressed remorse after facing such an enormity of backlash over her actions, She deleted her original Instagram account and posted an apology on a new private Instagram page according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“I apologize for my stupid mistake,” she wrote. “There was no intent to offend anyone…I also realize how awful it is to make light in anyway of the horrors of hitler and the holocaust. It was stupid on my part and I feel bad about it. I would take it back if I could. I hope you all understand and forgive me.”
The entire incident could be chalked up to ignorance and immaturity, but at least the teen had the sense to admit a mistake and apologize.
If only President Trump had the maturity to recognize the mistakes of his regular bouts of bigotry and would issue a sincere apology, but that would only happen in our dreams.
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Original reporting by Liz Sawyer at The Minneapolis Star Tribune.