A group of seniors from Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona posed for their yearbook photo this week. But instead of high fiving, or the lens snapping them mid-leap – they opted to spell out a racial slur with their t-shirts. The image has since gone on to break the internet.
It’s fairly common for Seniors to celebrate their photo day with t-shirts that, when they assemble for a group photo, spell out a word or phrase. It could be the name of the school, their social group, or so on. But as AZ Central reports, this one was different:
A photo shows six smiling girls standing with their arms around each other, wearing black shirts with letters written on them in gold tape that, even with asterisks in the middle, unmistakably spell out the n-word.
The photo has a small circle in the corner, indicating it was originally posted to Snapchat, where photos disappear after 24 hours.
The image began appearing across Facebook shortly after:
What appears to have happened, is that the girls assembled for their class photo with their lettered t-shirts. In a large group, they spelled out: ‘Best you’ve ever seen, class of 2016’. Then, a group of six girls decided to pose in a smaller photo in which they used their letters to spell out the slur.
Jill Hanks, Executive Director of Community Relations for the Tempe Union High School District, which oversees Desert Vista said:
“That was not a school photo,”
“That was taken off to the side somewhere and I don’t know who took it or who posted it. We found out about it when everyone else did, when it popped up on social media.”
“They do not represent DV or the community as a whole. These are six students who made a really bad decision. They do not reflect the rest of the student body, the 3,100 other students that go here, staff that work here or anyone in our district,”
She emphasized the class will undergo ‘sensitivity training’ in efforts to have them understand and empathize with issues around race and history.
Once ‘word’ began to spread, a major backlash began. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for the students to be expelled for racism.
— Melaninqua (@BlvckConscious) January 23, 2016
And Twitter lit up with reaction too.
— TylerBaldwin (@tylerbaldwin) January 22, 2016
— Gilbert Romero (@GilbertRomeroAZ) January 23, 2016
There were rumors that the girls have since been suspended for five days, but the school and school district have not released details of any punishment formally. According to Atlanta Black Star:
Tempe Union Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Baca released the following statement:
The event that took place today at Desert Vista will not be tolerated. It is unacceptable for any racial slur to be used regardless of intent. We need to understand that words matter. I can assure you the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.
A letter also was sent home to Desert Vista students from Principal Dr. Christine Barela which read:
Dear Desert Vista Families,
We want to let you know we share your outrage and disappointment over the actions of a handful of our students today. We want to make it crystal clear those actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Desert Vista. Those actions do not represent who we are as a campus. We can assure you we will discipline these students in accordance with district policy and our student handbook. While we don’t discuss individual discipline, we can tell you that in addition, the obvious need for sensitivity training will be addressed. As a precaution, Phoenix Police will be increasing security at and around Desert Vista.
This has done little to calm tension in the area or in the press and social media.
— phxsoul (@PhxSoul) January 22, 2016
It’s clear that ‘we didn’t mean anything by it’ is well past its sell-by date as an excuse for this sort of racist behavior. If these girls don’t learn this lesson now, they will carry these warped world views into their adult lives. And if there is one thing the adult world doesn’t need, it’s another six racists.
Featured Image via Facebook