It happened, in a flash. And then it happened again— an African-American male student at Wake Forest High School strides up behind a white male student, and pulls on the second student’s knapsack, bringing him to the floor. The kid gets up, seems to use a racial slur, “black piece of ----” and walks off, only to be pulled down again. A teacher intervenes, and then the camera video is off.
Is the video a sign of a larger problem? Judging by the fact that it “went viral” on social media, it certainly may indicate broader and deeper feelings among students at the school. There is, of course, racial tension everywhere in society, and though students who have been raised in integrated public schools often are more tolerant on racial matters, that’s certainly not the case across the board.
Micah Speed, 15, was the one who pulled the other student down and was suspended for 10 days, though his mother later indicated his suspension had been reduced. Speed’s friends say he had been the target of racial harassment. A petition called for the other student to be suspended.
The public nature of the episode makes it difficult for school officials, but they responded correctly in asking parents to contact the school if they have worries, and encouraging students to report things to administrators. Videos of such incidents can be helpful in getting to the bottom of a problem or incident, but they also can be incomplete. School officials need to get the complete story, and to share it with the high school community, to take a step in calming tensions.