A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning

In a single sense, the general public shaming of Ms. Groves underscores the ability of social media to carry folks of all ages accountable, with penalties at occasions together with harassment and each on-line and real-world “cancellation.” However the story behind the backlash additionally reveals a extra advanced portrait of conduct that for generations had gone unchecked in faculties in one of many nation’s wealthiest counties, the place Black college students mentioned that they had lengthy been subjected to ridicule. “Go choose cotton,” some mentioned they have been instructed at school by white college students.

“It was simply all the time very uncomfortable being Black within the classroom,” mentioned Muna Barry, a Black scholar who graduated with Ms. Groves and Mr. Galligan. As soon as throughout Black Historical past Month, she recalled, fitness center lecturers at her elementary college organized an “Underground Railroad” sport, the place college students have been instructed to run by an impediment course at the hours of darkness. They needed to start once more in the event that they made noise.

The usage of the slur by a Heritage Excessive College scholar was not surprising, many mentioned. The shock, as an alternative, was that Ms. Groves was being punished for conduct that had lengthy been tolerated.

Leesburg, the county seat of Loudoun County, lies simply throughout the Potomac River from Maryland, about an hour’s drive from Washington. It was the positioning of an early Civil Struggle battle, and slave auctions have been as soon as held on the courthouse grounds, the place a statue of a Accomplice soldier stood for greater than a century till it was eliminated in July.

The Loudoun County suburbs are among the many wealthiest within the nation, and the faculties constantly rank among the many prime within the state. Final fall, in keeping with the Virginia Division of Training, the coed physique at Heritage Excessive was about half white, 20 % Hispanic, 14 % Asian-American and eight % Black, with one other 6 % who’re blended race.

In interviews, present and former college students of coloration described an surroundings rife with racial insensitivity, together with informal makes use of of slurs.

A report commissioned final yr by the varsity district documented a sample of college leaders ignoring the widespread use of racial slurs by each college students and lecturers, fostering a “rising sense of despair” amongst college students of coloration, a few of whom confronted disproportionate disciplinary measures in contrast with white college students.

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