On Tuesday night, a racist video began making the rounds on Twitter, allegedly featuring members of the baseball team from Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee.
It showed a student wearing a KKK hood, sitting on a chair with the “Grace” logo on it. Off-camera, someone shouts, “Who do we hate?” The boy in the hood yells out the N-word. (The account that first shared the video, @TruthforGCAnow, is no longer in service.)
In what context is any of that okay? Good luck finding an answer.
It’s not like the school is defending it. Yesterday, the school’s leader issued a statement condemning the video and saying disciplinary action had already been taken:
Immediately upon being made aware of an extremely inappropriate and deeply disappointing video yesterday afternoon that violates everything we value, the administration of Grace Christian Academy has taken swift action to meet with all students involved. Severe disciplinary action has been issued as GCA does not condone this behavior or any form of racism. We will continue to seek truth and enact appropriate discipline.
What we have witnessed in the last 24 hours is in no way consistent with the mission and core values of GCA. We are doing everything possible to ensure the physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of all our students and staff. Teachers and trained professionals will be available to speak with GCA students or families tomorrow, if desired. We covet your prayers and appreciate your partnership in ministry.
Dr. Tony Pointer
GCA Head of School
That response, as a matter of getting something out there quickly, was fine. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to trash the school for something students do on their own time, at least without more context. The statement was, however, lacking some important details that I hope come out in the days to come.
Dr. Pointer should let the public know what he discovered about the making of this video and what disciplinary actions he took against the students. There’s a wide range between asking students to say prayers and expelling them. (He can inform the public without naming the minors involved.)
Indeed, there are reports from The Tennessee Holler, which first amplified this story, saying between between 3-7 students have been expelled under a “zero tolerance” policy. The site also added that the video was apparently taken in August but only surfaced now.
But it’s telling that the information isn’t coming from the school itself. There’s a serious lack of transparency and immediacy here.
While we’re at it, it would also be helpful for the school to tell the public what they teach students about race. Evangelical Christians have fought against the accurate and comprehensive teaching of our racist past, writing it off as part of some “liberal agenda” that promotes “Critical Race Theory” or “wokeness” or [insert any other term conservatives use to dismiss facing the truth about our history].
No doubt most teachers at this school are shocked by what’s in this video. But do the students involved understand the gravity of what they were doing? Even if they thought it was some kind of joke, what made them think it would be funny to anyone? Why the hell would they want to film it? And if the students are seriously that ignorant, how much blame do their parents and teachers deserve?
I don’t know the answer, but I don’t think it’s zero. One state representative made a similar point:
There will inevitably people who say this isn’t “Christian” behavior. Those people are wrong. This is precisely the sort of behavior that occurs in Christian settings because too many right-wing pastors, politicians, and parents refuse to condemn these racist attacks with the seriousness they deserve and refuse to educate themselves and their kids about the reality of discrimination.
If they don’t take it seriously, no wonder their kids don’t either. No amount of lip service from Republicans or conservative Christian leaders makes up for the fact that their policy positions allow this kind of bigotry to thrive in their circles.
If they disagree, then let’s hear what they plan to change in the wake of this incident. I’d bet good money the answer is nothing at all. They’ll say this is wrong, before taking another dive into their pool of ignorance. After all, it was just this week that many people realized how white evangelicals supported segregation before they finally decided to make abortion their pet cause. These things are linked together, yet many of those very believers refuse to acknowledge it.