The behavior of these high school students is blatantly racist and hateful
In an absolutely vile viral video, a mob of white teen boys — many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats — can be seen harassing a Native American Vietnam War veteran during the first ever Indigenous Peoples March.
The group of boys may face serious consequences from their high school — completely deserved in every way.
The video, posted online, shows the group of boys surrounding Nathan Phillips as he sang the American Indian Movement song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. According to Indian Country Today, Phillips served in the Vietnam War and is the former director of the Native Youth Alliance.
One boy in particular visibly attempts to intimidate Phillips by distracting him as he performs. At the very least, it’s incredibly unsettling to watch.
That smug, entitled face is now seared into all of our brains for eternity — if you’re ever looking for inspiration while hitting a heavy bag or something, here it is. The laughing, sneering boys in the background aren’t any better.
Prior to the events seen in this video, Phillips tells the Detroit Free Press that the students were harassing a group of Black Hebrew Israelites who were giving speeches and saying things the white students “didn’t agree with.” So Phillips stepped in to diffuse the situation.
“They were in the process of attacking these four black individuals,” Phillip said. “I was there and I was witnessing all of this … As this kept on going on and escalating, it just got to a point where you do something or you walk away, you know? You see something that is wrong and you’re faced with that choice of right or wrong.”
The boys are students from Covington Catholic School in Kentucky, apparently in D.C. for the March For Life event — because yeah, sure, a group of Trump-loving teenage boys should definitely add their voices to the army of people against women’s reproductive health.
Many people all over social media reacted viscerally to the viral video, because between the blatant racism and disrespect for other human beings, how could anyone not have a strong reaction?
I'm willing to bet that fifty years from now, a defining image of this political era will be that smug white MAGA teen disrespecting a Native elder and veteran. It just captures so much.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) January 19, 2019
To anyone who's ever been any kind of other, the goofy malice in that MAGA kid's eyes is instantly recognizable.
— Dave Holmes (@DaveHolmes) January 19, 2019
Why is everyone making such a big deal about these MAGA kids mocking and harrassing a Vietnam veteran, it's not like they did something truly unforgiveable like take a knee https://t.co/HFnwwQYspc
— Matt Oswalt (@MattOswaltVA) January 19, 2019
“I liked intimidating elderly Native Americans. I STILL like intimidating elderly Native Americans.” — this kid, at his confirmation hearing, before being appointed to the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/ijFJYMkhWG
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) January 19, 2019
Watching the shit-eating-grins on those teens harassing Native American protestors is the only birth control I need for a long time. I’d be beyond embarrassed to be any of their parents.
— Caroline Moss (@CarolineMoss) January 19, 2019
Lots of people were quick to point out that just because these boys are young, doesn’t mean they didn’t know exactly what they were doing. They were absolutely intentional about every moment of this, and they do not deserve to be let off the hook.
Letting kids off the hook is actually not the most compassionate thing you can do for them. Everybody makes mistakes, but learning how to properly make amends and grapple with regret is a necessary life skill. Being held accountable is not violence.
— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) January 19, 2019
Raise your hand if you were a teenager who wouldn't have dreamed of surrounding an older person of color with your friends and proceeding to mock and harass them with white supremacist propaganda. #CovingtonCatholic https://t.co/kzmmQC4cjv
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) January 19, 2019
“He made a mistake but he’s just a teenager,” argues some in nation that puts children in concentration camps
— JuanPa (@jpbrammer) January 19, 2019
Phillips himself weighed in on what being harassed felt like, and what he thinks about today’s youth.
The Native American who apparently was being mocked by teens wearing MAGA hats in a viral video says he has "fear for those youth, fear for their future, fear for their souls, their spirit, what they're going to do to this country." pic.twitter.com/GQgvZAkPtQ
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) January 20, 2019
He tells The Washington Post that he knew things were escalating, but he felt trapped. “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips says. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”
Instead of showing his frustration, he continued drumming and singing. He says he was thinking of his wife Shoshana, who died of cancer four years ago, and the threats all indigenous communities face around the world.
“I felt like the spirit was talking through me,” Phillips says.
Both the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, Kentucky and Covington Catholic School issued a statement condemning the actions of the boys.
“We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” the statement reads. “The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”
As for Phillips, he says the boys were shouting things like, “build that wall, build that wall” and other racist remarks that have undoubtedly perked their ears every time Trump sends a racist dog whistle their way.
Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I’m reposting this video from “ka_ya11” on IG. This man’s words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope. pic.twitter.com/BKOA40SVq5
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019
“This is indigenous land, you’re not supposed to have walls here,” Phillips says, wiping away tears. “We never did for millennia. We never had a prison; we always took care of our elders, took care of our children, always provided for them, taught them right from wrong. I wish I could see that energy …put that energy to making this country really, really great.”