Our Reaction to Covington was Unacceptable

Note the title of this column: Our reaction was unacceptable. What actually happened in D.C. with the Covington Catholic boys was, by any reasonable standard, far from “unacceptable.” A Native American elder and a group of Catholic schoolboys had a tense confrontation in which no one was insulted, attacked or harassedunless you count the viciously racist Black Hebrew Israelites slinging violently racist insults and threatening the Covington boys, who the media seems all too eager to forget were the instigators of this confrontation. But let’s take the black supremacists calling the Covington boys “white f—–s” and “incest babies” out of the picture for a moment and focus on the scene that captivated America’s attentiona group of young white kids in MAGA hats loudly chanting and jumping around a Native American elder playing a tribal drum.

At its absolute worst, this scene represents the rise of ethnic tensions and deteriorating race relations in America. Tense pictures between ethnic groups isn’t a good look. But it’s not a violent image, nor a scene of riot or outright bigotry. In a detached, impartial sense, the image of a bunch of schoolboys tersely staring down an old Native man should cause us, as Americans, to ask questions such as “how can we heal the growing divides within our nation?”

It is not an image that should cause Twitter to light up with comments such as “#MAGAkids go into the woodchipper, hats first.”

Frankly, I don’t think it particularly matters who “initiated” the Covington stare down. Certainly, false narratives crafted by unscrupulous mass media are partially to blame; they sold an unverified story about a gang of MAGA-hat wearing kids surrounding and harassing a Native elder and Vietnam vet, and that story would be reprehensiblewere it not a complete falsehood. But the media are ultimately not to blame. This is a situation where our reactionthe reaction of the general American publicwas the worst and most unacceptable aspect of the entire situation. The root cause of these “divisions” isn’t the Black Hebrew Israelites and it isn’t the media. It’s us: the American public.

When did it become acceptable to condemn our fellow Americans to death for eight-second- long videos of them looking smug while wear- ing insignias of a politician we disagree with? When the narrative seemed to promote those prejudices, it seemed like there was no end to the tweets and statuses about violently abusing the Covington boysand for what? Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Americans spoke on- line about burning these kids alive and shooting them in the streets. Even when the truth had come out, countless more claimed that the act of smiling and looking like a stereotypical prep-boy warranted beating the Covington boys to death.

You are the problem, my fellow Americans. It doesn’t matter what the media narrative may have been at the time or what the political atmosphere felt like. The rhetoric that came out in the wake of the Covington Catholic stare down was sickening. Our rhetoric. I hope more than anything else that I never have to see the kind of rhetoric the Covington Catholic stare down produced againat least not on the gargantuan, industrial scale that it came out, directly from the mouths of the American public. But there seems to be nothing more than mumbled, half-hearted apologies in the wake of Covington.

If we want to survive the next few decades, either we will break these divisions or they will break us. There is no other option.

Contact Max Goldenberg at [email protected].