Learning to take responsibility for your actions

Students from a Kentucky Catholic High School appeared to harass and mock a Native American demonstrator during a rally in Washington D.C. (NBC10)

Students from a Kentucky Catholic High School appeared to harass and mock a Native American demonstrator during a rally in Washington D.C. (NBC10)

Some say a new video depicting a confrontation between a Native American elder and schoolboys wearing “Make America Great Again” hats excuses the boys’ disrespectful behavior toward that elder, Nathan Phillips.

Initially, the boys were widely condemned after a three minute clip of their behavior toward Phillips went viral. But now that the fuller video shows a separate group taunting the boys, some have sought to absolve the boys and their adult chaperones of all responsibility. However, I’m not buying it, because when those boys left their Kentucky Catholic School and came to Washington DC, they claimed they were looking to stand against abortion. In my view, they came looking for trouble.

Why else would they wear bright red hats and hoodies emblazoned with the words, “Make America Great Again”?

Those hats carry with them a message that says Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists; that Native American culture is to be mocked and ridiculed; that blacks all live in hellish communities; that women are to be sexually assaulted.

Those hats represent all of those things, because they represent Donald Trump. Wear them and eventually someone will confront you, and that’s exactly what happened to those boys.

A group of men from the Black Hebrew Israelites—a religious sect that believes blacks are the original Hebrews of the bible—spotted those hats. Then the men did what the group is known for—they read some scriptures from the bible, and then they began to hurl insults.

They called the boys future school shooters, alluding to the fact that the majority of school shootings are carried out by white males. They called them sexual deviants, a reference to the fact that some Catholic priests have molested children. They called them crackers—perhaps after hearing the Southern twang that revealed the boys’ Kentucky roots.

In short, the Black Hebrew Israelites called them out, because in wearing those hats, I believe those young men came looking for the chance to belittle others. Instead, they found people who were willing to belittle them.

Were the things those black men said offensive? Absolutely. Were their statements filled with stereotypes? Yes. Were the men wrong to hurl such loaded insults? Probably so.

But none of that excuses what happened next, because when a 64-year-old Native American elder named Nathan Phillips came between the two groups, chanting in his native language and beating his native drum in what Phillips said was an attempt to defuse the situation—the boys mocked him.

Perhaps worse, they did so with the blessing of the adults who were supposed to be overseeing them.

In a statement about the confrontation Nick Sandmann, the boy whose condescending smirk drew widespread condemnation, said the boys were chanting and singing with the permission of the adults who were with them.

“… A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group (by the Black Hebrew Israelites),” Sandmann wrote in the statement. “… Our chaperone gave us permission to use our school chants.”

Except those so-called school chants were filled with mocking and disrespectful gestures like tomahawk chops that were aimed at Native American Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips.

So here was a man who had put his life on the line for this country—a man descended from the group that was here before all of us—and an adult charged with overseeing those kids gave them permission to mock him with so called school chants?

That’s just one of the questions I have for the adults who allowed this to happen. There are many others, as well.

Why would a school let them wear those hats—with their underlying message of hatred—to a march that was supposed to support life? Why would their chaperones allow them to do anything that would appear to mock their elders? Why would those boys claim their response to the Native American man was based on what four black men had said to them?

I’m not buying any of it, because even if the kids didn’t know any better, the adults who brought them should have. So here’s my advice to those folks from Kentucky: You want to make America great? Take responsibility for your actions, and stop trying to blame everyone else.

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