Last week a picture portraying racial tension surfaced from an incident at the Lincoln Memorial and the teenagers involved have now been the recipients of death threats.
You’ve seen it – the young white teenage male with a little smile on his face, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. He is looking at an angry looking Native American carrying a drum. The old adage says “a picture cannot lie”, however a picture does not always present the whole truth. This picture went viral on social media; it popped up on many people’s home page and created public outrage, which resulted in death threats.
Many sides to the story
The picture appears to involve a group of white teenagers and a group of Native Americans. This would lead people to believe that there are only two groups involved, however there are three sides to this story and all three sides have some similarities and some discrepancies. All agree that the event took place outside the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, January 18th. All three agree that there were three separate demonstrations going on a march for the Indigenous Peoples, a March for Life, and a group preaching the bible and their beliefs. All three agree that there were hostile words spoken and raised voices. The rest is up for interpretation.
Hebrew Israelites’ Side
The Hebrew Israelites were at the National Mall to “preach the truth of the Bible”, to teach their belief that African ’Americans are God’s chosen people. One member of the Hebrew Israelite said while they were trying to teach the Native Americans of the meaning of the word savages, the teenagers were mocking them and shouting racist slurs. The Hebrew Israelites believe the students were at fault for the incident.
The Native American Side
The spokesman for the Native Americans said that throughout the day the teenagers had been walking around making derogatory comments about the Blacks and about the Native Americans. Then there was a shouting match with heated words between the students and the Hebrew Israelites. The Native Americans began playing a prayer chant on the drums and walking between the two groups to try to calm both groups down. They accused the teenagers of making fun of the Native American heritage by making chopping motions with their hands. The Native Americans were walking between the students towards a meeting place at the front of the mall, but one teenager stood with a smirk on his face. The Native American believed this was illustrative of the years of built-up aggression against the Natives by whites. The Native Americans believe the Hebrew Israelites and the students were at fault for the incident.
The Teenager’s Side
The teenage in the photo was with a group of Catholic students in Kentucky protesting against abortion. The Hebrew Israelites had been shouting hateful comments to the students and the Native Americans throughout the day. When the Hebrew Israelites were calling the Native Americans savages, the group decided to chant cheers from sporting events to try and drown out the hateful words. One young black student responded to the insults by taking off his shirt and jumping along with the chants. When the Native Americans began to walk through the students, the teenagers were confused about what was going on so the pictured teen stood still with a small smile on his face, hoping to appear non-confrontational. Since the incident, the teens have started receiving death threats for their part in the situation.
The true story often lies somewhere in between each side’s story. Reality is often based on a each person’s past and beliefs. Interviews with bystanders are very different to each other and to the three groups. What may be dancing to one person would appear to be mocking to another. What may be a non-confrontational pose to one person may be an insult and an invitation to fight to another. When these incidents arise no one, including the youth, are exempt from the rising tensions. If you or your teen are facing legal action for violent or threatening behavior that could have risen based on a racially or otherwise tense situation, contact a defense attorney.