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Senior+Anthony+Vieti+leads+Thursday%27s+protest+against+racism+by+raising+his+arm+in+solidarity+with+the+hundreds+of+community+members+shocked+by+the+epithet-filled+videos.+There+were+two+protests%2C+one+at+9+a.m.+and+one+at+2+p.m.
Senior Anthony Vieti leads Thursday's protest against racism by raising his arm in solidarity with the hundreds of community members shocked by the epithet-filled videos. There were two protests, one at 9 a.m. and one at 2 p.m.

Senior Anthony Vieti leads Thursday's protest against racism by raising his arm in solidarity with the hundreds of community members shocked by the epithet-filled videos. There were two protests, one at 9 a.m. and one at 2 p.m.

RENATA SHEN/SAGAMORE STAFF

RENATA SHEN/SAGAMORE STAFF

Senior Anthony Vieti leads Thursday's protest against racism by raising his arm in solidarity with the hundreds of community members shocked by the epithet-filled videos. There were two protests, one at 9 a.m. and one at 2 p.m.

Brookline community recoils from racist videos, looks to future

November 30, 2017

SASCHA WOLF-SOROKIN, LAUREN MAHONEY AND IZZY GONZALEZ/SAGAMORE STAFF

Videos of students using a racial slur evoked strong reaction from students and faculty, including two walkouts today, Nov. 30.

In the first video, a current BHS student and two alumni crowd around the camera. Laughing and smiling, one of the alumni calls a current junior (not in the video) the N-word multiple times, finally calling him  an “African American Scholars a** n*****,” referring to the African American and Latino Scholars Program (AALSP), which encourages and supports high academic achievement among students of color.

According to the student, he received the first video via Snapchat on Tue. Nov. 21. The student said he was mad about the video and sent it to another AALSP student.

The video circulated and many AALSP students posted it on their Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Multiple students showed the video to faculty.

The student who received the video said it was more than just a personal attack because it included references to AALSP.

“You can come at me, I don’t really care, but if you come at Scholars, that’s bigger than me. That’s my family. That’s the school,” he said.

He said that although two of the students in the video were his friends, it is important that actions be taken in the aftermath of the videos.

“I want people to know that this is a problem and something needs to be done. I also feel bad because it’s ruining someone’s life, but he put himself in this situation,” the student said. “I want him to know that we are good, but it’s not about me anymore. It’s about everyone here.”

The second video, which is still undergoing investigation, included a BHS student and a student from another high school. They address what appears to be a White adult driving a car as their “n*****.” Unlike the first video, the students do not use a hard “r,” ending the word in “a.”

The videos inspired two walkouts, organized by seniors Salam Kasu, Anthony Saunders, Yama Estime and other AALSP students.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday the first walkout occurred in front of the school. The AALSP students dressed in their maroon AALSP sweatshirts, and other students wore maroon as well to stand in solidarity.

Kasu said the fact that it was a direct attack on a member of her community made the situation different from other incidents.

“I am a part of the African American and Latino Scholars Program, and that attack on someone in our family really hurt,  and it just made it that much more personal,” Kasu said.

SUSANNA KEMP/SAGAMORE STAFF
“We are still scholars.” At the B-block walkout, students wearing African American and Latino Scholars Program sweatshirts hold signs.

According to senior and AALSP student Penelope Cruz, students shared the videos on social media as a way to spread the message that events such as these will not be ignored.

“This time the students really took the initiative to circulate the video themselves because they knew that {the school} would just brush it under the rug and hope that people forget about it — which is what they do when anything bad happens to keep up a positive reputation at the school,” Cruz said. “Now that it’s out there, the school can’t do anything or deny that it happened or they don’t know how it happened.”

Once students congregated outside the Atrium, members of AALSP began giving speeches, beginning with senior Anthony Viete, then Saunders. Estime spoke next and encouraged her peers not to react to the videos only with anger.

“We have to act on educating others on why it is important that this person can’t say this word. That word is disgusting. It’s disrespectful not only to our ancestors, it’s disrespectful to our kids in the future,” Estime said.

During her speech, Estime responded to a student in the crowd who suggested that the students in one of the videos were drunk and that it is no excuse for their actions.

“Yes, being drunk is not an excuse! I don’t care if you were intoxicated. I don’t care if you were drugged up. You said what you said,” Estime said.

RENATA SHEN/SAGAMORE STAFF
Students raise their hands in support of Thursday’s protests outside the school’s atrium during the B-block protest. Wednesday night, some students publicized the message on social media that anyone who saw the message should wear the color maroon to show support. Maroon is the color of the sweatshirts of the AALSP.

After Estime’s speech, junior Patricia Silva-Gayle shared a letter to the students who made the videos.

“Actions have consequences. Maybe the rest of you privileged Brookline kids can learn something from these two mistakes. Don’t get angry; get educated. Learn from this and grow to become a better human being,” Silva-Gayle said. “It’s almost 2018. There are no excuses anymore for this behavior, especially when you have an amazing education where they teach you about slavery, racism, etcetera.”

While Saunders said he is angry about the videos, he said he is also glad that the actions are finally being addressed.

Towards the end the first walkout,  Estime called upon Headmaster Anthony Meyer to talk after her.  A member of the crowd shouted out, “So what are you guys going to do about this now?”

Meyer apologized to students for not releasing information about the incident sooner.

“I want to create an environment where everybody feels comfortable and safe, and that is at the end of the day the most important part of my job,” Meyer said. “By delaying communication about what happened, I did not put the adults who care for you also in the position to do that, and so for that I owe you an apology, and that is my responsibility.”

Superintendent Andrew Bott spoke to a group of AALSP students after the first walkout concluded.

After this conversation, Bott expressed a need for the Brookline community as a whole to take action.

“We have to collectively stand up together as everyone did outside and say, ‘This is not okay. This is not who we are. We’re going to fight to change this,’” Bott said. “I don’t have all the answers, but collectively, students, community members, faculty, that’s the collective, the power of all the ideas that are out there. I think that’s what we need to do to really come together and figure that out.” 

CHLOE JEPSEN AND BEN MANDL/SAGAMORE STAFF

Junior Ben Haber said that there is a lot that needs to be changed to address not only this incident but the institutional problem of racism.

“I think institutionally, the administration should set policies for what happens when someone uses racial slurs like this,” Haber said. “I think we also have a lot of work to do in terms of who is represented in our curriculum, whose represented in the way that we learn about racism and race in our school . . . I hope we can come together and make some change.”

In light of the videos, the administrative deans  presented a new rule at  Student Legislature during X-block. “No fighting words” outlines the procedures and consequences for using hate speech. Legislature passed the rule, 13 for, five against and four abstentions. Meyer can either veto or pass the article for the Student Handbook in the next fifteen days.

SIDONIE BROWN/SAGAMORE STAFF
At the F-block rally, hundreds of students left their classes to again protest again racism in Brookline and show solidarity for those hurt. This rally took place from 2 p.m. to the end of the school day at 2:50 p.m.

At 1:50 p.m., Meyer made an announcement on the PA system explaining the incident to students, describing his frustration and apologizing for not communicating sooner.

“I want to make clear that these videos and the beliefs and behavior behind them cannot and will not be tolerated,” Meyer said. “Engaging in these types of behavior results in serious consequences for anyone involved, including possible police investigations.”

At 2 p.m., there was a second walkout. Students again stood outside the building and on the street as speakers talked about the videos and what was needed for the future.

Senior Anthony Vieti spoke again and emphasized the importance of recognizing mistakes and standing up together. He highlighted his appreciation for Meyer’s apology over the PA system.

“Thank you,” Vieti said. “Thank you from all of us.”

The second protest involved many chants, such as “Love, not hate” and “We are BHS.” Then, Saunders opened up the protest for other attendees to speak.

Junior Roger Burtonpatel reminded the crowd of Brookline’s responsibility to be a pacesetter.

“We are not the kind of high school that lets this stuff slip and lets it slide,” Burtonpatel said. “We are the high school who is the school on the hill, and we show people how to be better.”

 

SIDONIE BROWN/SAGAMORE STAFF
Hundreds of students put on a show of overwhelming support for improvement in race relations in Brookline and beyond.

 

Additional reporting by Sidonie Brown, Tree Demb, Nick Eddinger, Susanna Kemp, Lauren Mahoney, Sofia Reynoso, Renata Shen and Sascha Wolf-Sorokin.

Featured image by Renata Shen/Sagamore Staff.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Brookline community recoils from racist videos, looks to future”

  1. Lillian Silva on December 1st, 2017 8:54 am

    Really well organized event, well overdue but nevertheless very happy the conversations is coming up to the table again.
    Hopefully this time is will be heard. Now its up to all the adults in position of authority and other white folks and others to embrace this a cause worth supporting because until the color of your skin IS NO more significant than the color of yours eyes , we’ll see WAR.

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