A Miscommunication Results in Conflict

An incident between white students and a Native American sparks a controversial issue

On January 18, 2019 the steps of Lincoln Memorial were filled with protests, chaos, and misunderstandings. A video of white students in ‘Make America Great Again’ gear from Covington Catholic High school went viral showing them chanting and screaming at a Native American man and Vietnam War veteran, Nathan Phillips.


Initially the mainstream media used words like ‘mocking’ and ‘harrassing’ to describe the behavior of these students toward Phillips, but as more videos of the whole situation surfaced it seemed to show more and more of what actually took place. The students from Covington High had just finished protesting in an anti-abortion rally when they were approached by Black Hebrew Israelites.


At first, it seemed like the Israelites were addressing the students to have a discussion and talk about both sides, but as the conversation continued they began shouting homophobic and hateful comments toward the students. Nathan Phillips, along with other Native American elders, saw the scene escalating and in hopes of diffusing the situation, walked straight through after having participated in the Indigenous Peoples March. They played their instruments to stop the chaos. In doing so they themselves became part of the chaos. The rest of what happened was shown to the public when the video went viral.


One of the hardest things one can do is oppose one’s own bias and in having taken into account both sides of the story and what really happened, the entire thing was misconstrued. However, let’s say the video wasn’t taken out of context and only that clip explained everything that really happened. The excuses that people made for these students were unacceptable. No, these aren’t just kids. No, they were not afraid. They are old enough to understand right from wrong. They began to chant and mock this elderly man and the American people who stood by their side justifying this behavior did not stand with children, real children, when they were kids of color.


Seven year old Jakelin Caal and eight year old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, both from Guatemala, died trying to get into this country. 12 year old Tamir Rice, an African American kid was shot for playing with a pellet gun. These are just a couple of examples and kids who were unjustifiably treated and killed, but their defense was nowhere to be found. They had no sympathy. These white students got sympathy and passes and support.


The entire situation was misconstrued and misunderstood in every way. Everybody played the victim card, but that doesn’t deny the deeper issue in this country: an endless cycle of oppression, racism, and unjust treatment.