White Bear Lake high schoolers gathered in the rainy parking lot at South Campus last Friday in support of Black classmates who were targeted with a series of hateful messages over social media.
The messages, which included racial slurs and threats of violence, were sent from an anonymous Instagram account that used a White Bear school logo. Many of the targeted students were members of the school’s Black Excellence Club.
Students wore black clothing in solidarity with their classmates, and listened as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students shared their experiences of harassment and discrimination in school and in the wider community.
“I know a lot of you were maybe shocked or disgusted at the rhetoric going on in those DMs (direct messages), but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said one student. “What is it that makes somebody so bold? To have the audacity to have this Instagram group chat with Black students, just minding their own business, telling them that they should get raped, that they should be killed. How is that okay?”
Students called on the district to show support for its BIPOC students and to allow no tolerance for racist behavior in the schools. One student speaker recalled hearing a classmate use the N-word, and being informed by a teacher there was a “three-strike rule” before that student would face repercussions for their words.
Senior Jennifer Adams was one of the student leaders of the rally. Adams is a friend of the students who were targeted. She serves as a student liaison on the White Bear Lake school board.
“Basically, the administration has let this go on for too long,” Adams said. “This happens all the time. We need support, and obviously, it has to start with us. It had to start with me. It had to start with all of us.”
Ashanti Cox is one of the students who was targeted with hateful messages.
“What needs to happen is these adults need to use their adult power, their supervisory power, and their white power, because they are adults and they are white, and they can do more for us than we can,” Cox said.
BIPOC students called upon white classmates and community members to take action, to push back against racist behavior they witness and not stay silent.
South Campus principal Don Bosch was also called up to speak during the rally.
“I want you to know we will not tolerate racism, we will not tolerate any injustice toward anybody,” Bosch said. “Right now we need to come together as a school and a community and denounce racism.”
Bosch acknowledged that the rally was an important part of the healing process for the student body. The district is currently working with local law enforcement to investigate the incident and identify the person responsible for the messages.