Racist New Jersey Wrestling Photo Proves Post-Racial America Is a Fantasy

This photo is a lot of things. But it is not harmless, and it is most certainly not a prank.

racist-wrestling-photo-new-jerseyThis is tired.

This photo, which features students from a Phillipsburg High School in New Jersey, is only a snapshot in time, but when I see something this stupid, I always wonder what set the ball in motion. Whose idea was it? Did anyone object? Who suggested the poses? How arrogant do you have to be to take a picture of something like this? Who’s raising these people?

Noose tying doesn’t spring immediately to my mind when I think about how one might want to celebrate a sporting event. Neither does fashioning my sweatshirt into a Klan hood.

These are the types of hoodies that signal violence and make people feel threatened.

These are the types of insidious acts that should make us all aware that the idea that we are somehow now in a post-racial America is something somebody made up to alleviate the burden of dealing with race in this country. A collective pat on the back for voting for the black guy.

This photo signals that racism is not a regional issue. It would be convenient to believe that overt racism exists “down South,” a place that isn’t here, and isn’t close, and therefore isn’t our problem.

I am tired of writing about dead black children.

I am tired of reading about the state of Florida (and Michigan, and Georgia) and the unfathomable things that occur there.

I’m exhausted, really, from the wave of overt racism that’s been operating at full force since President Obama was sworn in the first time back in 2008. Of  my reaction to these incidents being mischaracterized as a type of hypersensitivity.

I was really trying to enjoy Black History Month, but the world is making it hard.

It was reported by The Inquirer that Phillipsburg Superintendent George Chando was “disappointed, upset and embarrassed” by the photo. A quick trip through the comments provides even more to be disappointed, upset, and embarrassed about, including several commenters reducing the incident to a “harmless prank” among high school students. Something that happens “all the time.”

It is not lost on me that the people in this photo are children. Older children, but still children and perhaps still able to be rehabilitated (although, again, I have to wonder who is raising them). But it is also not lost on me that lynchings were once public family outings in the south; commemorative photos were often taken next to the lifeless bodies of black men strung on tall poplar trees, a sick and morbid souvenir of victory over blackness.

And so perhaps these students are smarter than I give them credit for.

Not that the Klan rally that happens regularly in Philly.com’s comment sections should be any barometer for decency of the general population, but it’s still worth noting that there are people among us — in our grocery stores, our schools, or other parts of our community — roaming freely with these types of racist inclinations.

Then something happens — loud music, a “bang” at the door, a question about being followed — that makes people act on those inclinations that have gone so many years unchecked, because they’ve been dismissed as “pranks” or otherwise not taken seriously.  The ball, once again, set in motion — sometimes with lethal consequence.

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  • matthew brandley

    Dude! relax! since when does this become a race card thing every time somebody psosts something like this? you libs are such a sesnsative bunch! Theres not one thing racial about this! Whats racial is blacks running around with there pants down to the knees , hats backwards, blasting rap so loud people can go deaf. Now thats racial! Talking ebonics instead of normal english, now thats racial.

    • Rafalca2012

      Comments like this make me hope the internet becomes more expensive so that fewer idiots like yourself have access to it. But then I remember there are actually hardworking people who are actually using the internet to become better, more knowledgeable people unlike yourself.

  • Allen Wing

    uhm your comments are racist, perhaps you don’t see the inherit racism in this picture is because you are yourself racial insensitive. “Whats racial is blacks running around with there pants down to the knees
    , hats backwards, blasting rap so loud people can go deaf. Now thats
    racial! Talking ebonics instead of normal english, now thats racial” – I hope your just trolling the comment section and you dont actually believe what you wrote, and I hope you never have a daughter because you know how these things work, you hate black people and then you end up having a bi-racial grandchild. And lastly, I teach at a exclusive private school on the main line, that is lacking in diversity, to say the least, and my main line white students blast rap music, wear their hats backward ( they must be watching that damn Nick Foles on TV or maybe Bill Clinton on TV) and they emulate the so-classed “ebonics” when the speak.

    • tipri1001

      You teach at an exclusive private school with those writing skills?

      • Allen Wing

        Yes, I never said I taught English. I do however acknowledge the micro-aggression in your comment. My comment has validity, regardless of my lack of proofreading. Racism is very much alive and well in America, I believe that was the main point of the article.

    • They_Call_Me_Bruce

      Right, because a diverse class on the Main Line would be so varied and not at all like more of the same just in different colors. How progressive of you. If you really strive for a more diverse class why aren’t you teaching in an area that actually offers it? Be honest, you love the idea of saying you are for diversity because it gives you a feeling of superiority, but when push comes to shove you don’t want to be anywhere near those types of people.

      • tipri1001

        Good points “Bruce”. You are totally correct about the hypocrisy and your points relate to a lot of people who love to tell us how to live, but don’t lead by example. But I doubt Allen teaches in the capacity he cited. His post is so poorly written; it gives him away.

      • Allen Wing

        I taught 9 years at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia so I have no problem “teaching those types of people”. ( your phrasing is racially loaded my friend) The Philadelphia school system lacks diversity, 72% African American, 18% Latino…And I didn’t chose to leave the Philly School District, I was laid off, like 8,000 of my fellow teachers. Diversity benefits all students, if the kids in this article had regular contact with students off all colors and nationalities, perhaps they would understand the error in their ways. No one is feeling superior, no one is commenting on your personal views, ( you responded to me) and no one is attacking a mind-set and way of life that is quickly diminishing in America. We all need to aware of our fellow neighbor, I dont think its asking to much from these kids to not post a picture of themselves lynching a black doll, I think that is something all sensible can agree upon.

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  • cmag1971

    The writer’s reaction is about as phony as it gets. Kids have been behaving badly for centuries. And racism is as perverse among Black Americans as White Americans. No condoning the behavior here but it is being whipped up into a feeding frenzy and and the zealots are making it to be far worse than it is. But that makes for good reading fodder and pathetic journalism.

  • Accountable4All

    First, you are interpreting more than the image states, although one can interpret the suggestion, especially if one is from an ethnic group that sees the noose & hood as threatening, which it certain is and should be.

    But does the hoodie really represent a KKK hood? Not quite sure. Also, only one is wearing it.

    Who is being hung? Is it a representation of the losing team? (Can’t read the tee.) We can’t extend the color of the “dummy” to be a racial statement, unless there was a “white” counterpart that was not chosen.

    The bottom line here is that if the image can be interpreted as racist it probably is. I doubt however, that was in the mind of the knuckleheads that posed and posted this. They need a good talking to.

    • Mark Cofta

      I had similar concerns. Was the dummy constructed to be a black person? Does the noose equate with lynching? Is the raised hoodie meant to be a KKK hood? Maybe not.

      However, it’s disturbing to think that teenagers today would be oblivious to how these items — singly, but particularly together — would be interpreted by others. It raises all sorts of issues about how stupid people can be about both what they do, and what they photograph and post online.

      This might be racist, or it might be something likely to be perceived as racist. Either way, it was an insensitive and dumb thing to do.

      • matthew brandley

        Only liberals would consider this to be a inesitive and dumb thing to do. why do there feeling s get hurt so easily? whimps

  • RightsTough

    If this was black kids with a “cracker” strung ya’ll would;t be screaming’ and hollering. We all good with this so let it be dawg!

    • Rafalca2012

      Ugh… you’re so stupid. I can’t. I just can’t.

      • TiredOfBothParties

        You won’t find a story where the roles are reversed, because white kids being stupid usually doesn’t end in guns being drawn, and someone getting shot up in a crowded room, but mysteriously no one saw anything.

        • Rafalca2012

          *Sigh*… I appreciate the effort, but what you just said is actually really stupid.

          As for white kids being stupid, Google “Ethan Crouch”.

  • Jayson Flores

    Thanks for writing this! We need to keep bringing attention to images like this, and continue to confront the continued white privilege in the male youth of this country.

    And side-note, anyone that defends these young men are racially insensitive themselves. Being racially aware is a process, and it’s not about being “fair”. Does racism exist in all of the races? Yes. But INSTITUTIONALLY racism extends to everyone except white people. And if you don’t believe that than look at the demographics of the political leaders in our country, as well as the business leaders and CEOs. It’s time people start accepting the truth and trying to fix it, rather than trying to pretend we live in post-racial America. It’s to wake up.

    • tipri1001

      You don’t make much sense. “Being racially aware is a process, and it’s not about being ‘fair’.” What the hell does that mean? And how is the demographic makeup of political or business leadership somehow flawed or “racist”? Explain yourself. And while you’re at it, discuss racism as it applies in all forms. No reasonable person here would deny the existence of racism and general opposition to it. As it relates to black-white relations in America, where were you during the “knock-out game” stories? Did you comment on those as well, or were you predictably silent?

      • Jayson Flores

        Wow. Seems like I pinched a nerve you, Mr. Sassy.

        Being racially aware is a process, means that it’s something you are learning and growing every single day with it. You don’t stop learning to be racially aware and conscious. You don’t just one day know everything about race–things change, culture changes, and the society we live in changes.

        Point number two, Mr. Sassy, it is flawed because we are supposed to be a representative democracy. We have a government that is representing our entire population, yet it is comprised predominantly by older white males. What about women, and people of color (black, Latino, Asian, etc.)?

        I’m not going to sit here and explain institutional racism here to you. People of color are kept out of the work force, and suffer extreme educational disadvantages. If you want to learn more about it, please do some research and learn on your own. I’m not your teacher.

        And obviously you trump my argument with a singular example. I was not silent during this game, and in fact felt it was tragic on both ends. The youths that were participating in these games obviously have been raised this way. Children are not born evil. They were pushed to these extremes by the poor environment in which they grew up. As a victim of violence myself, I understand how horrible it is to be attacked at random, for no reason. But these youth honestly found that to be a fun activity, which to me is more tragic than getting hit. Bruises heal–ideologies born out of pain don’t change as quickly.

        There’s that Mr. Sassy.

        • tipri1001

          “Mr. Sassy” aside, stay with the issues. Your statements about being “racially aware” still make no sense. I’m not trying to give you a hard time; I’m just taking your statements as you wrote them, lecturing the rest of us. Your original statement was that being “racially aware” was not about being “fair”, and I still don’t understand your intention. As for your clarification, I don’t think “racial awareness” or, more broadly, cultural awareness, means that one knows everything about the subject. It means you know enough to know you do not know everything.

          While environment does contribute to how we are shaped, lots of people grow up poor, but they don’t choose to punch innocent people on the street, much less defenseless elderly folks. So I reject your apologist argument that such individuals are driven by their “poor environment”. I can show you lots of poor people, the majority of poor people, who would never consider hurting another person. But your argument fits well within the “blameless society” narrative.

          That said, I’m sorry about your violent experience, but what you experienced is unacceptable. The perpetrators are not suffering a worse fate than you as the victim. If someone attacks me or mine, their ideology or background becomes irrelevant.

          • Jayson Flores

            People always feel the need to equalize statements about race–(ex. people are racist against white people too). People try to equalize it, when the fact remains that white people are not institutionally oppressed in America. White people feel it is unfair to take the blame for institutional racism, because they take it as a personal insult. Admitting that white privilege and institutional racism exist does not make a white person a bad person–denying the existence of those two does.

            And this is not an argument we will agree on. It’s nature vs. nurture, and I think nurture has far more to do with things than nature. You can call it a narrative or whatever you want, but it’s easy to say that these youths are inherently bad–it takes the blame off of all of us as a collective society. It helps people sleep at night and villainize people rather than doing the hard work to turn things around and find solutions, or steps towards a better future.

            I appreciate the sentiments, but I again, disagree. I have a bright future ahead of me and feel I am valued in society vs. the perpetrators who legitimately felt like a random violent act was worth it to them. They could have easily walked away, but they didn’t. They were compelled by something to do what they did. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and realize that some people have it worse than you. I’d rather use a mature attitude and think about the perpetrator not as a villain, who I attribute only bad qualities to in order to make myself feel better, but as a three-dimensional human being who has grown up in an environment that makes them feel like a violent act is impressive or somehow a valuable act for them as a person.

          • Allen Wing

            “I can show you lots of poor people, the majority of poor people, who would never consider hurting another person.” does this include people of color? I feel like your trying to justify your racial views based on the actions of 3 or 4 people. The knock-out game was an overblown news story, those people that where attacked were victims, but they were assaulted by 2 or 3 idiots, not every African American in the city of Philadelphia. The article that appeared on Phillymag.com states that Black on White crime is dramatically less then Black on Black crime. Two of those innocent victims were Betty Taylor, 62 and African American and James Edgewood 47 and African American, so it wasn’t just one group of people targeted.

          • Rafalca2012

            Yes, many people grow up poor, but people of color have the additional burden of having their lives negatively affected by people like yourself. You’re a reasonable person but you’re simply unaware and have no interest in learning to understand people who are different from you. That’s okay, if you want to be on the wrong side of history go ahead.

    • peter peterson

      Jayson Flores you are a naive insipid half a man

      • Jayson Flores

        I hope you know that I love Internet hate. There’s nothing more entertaining than people getting all tough and aggressive behind a computer screen. It’s what keeps me looking so young. ;)

        • peter peterson

          I don’t think you would like the tough and aggressive that i’d bring outside the computer. It’s blind people like you that feed the media’s incessant urge to stir trouble among the country. So keep on keeping on dude, make our founding fathers proud. These are dumb teens that did this and its simpleminded people like you that try to shift the blame towards others and treat it as some sort of microcosm of what really goes on today. I promise I wouldn’t be all so “entertaining” if this was off the computer.

          • Jayson Flores

            Oooooh! So aggressive. I love that in a guy. I’m glad I get you so riled up. Looks like we have a new Mr. Sassy! ;)

            You can live in your ignorance if you want. You know the saying–ignorance is bliss. So keep on doing it Mr. Sassy, and leave the real work in making change in this country to the adults.

            And I am seriously laughing at you. Look out everyone, WE GOT A COMPUTER THUG UP IN HERE! I wish you could hear my laughter.

            PS. Your initials are P.P. Just thought you should know that, Mr. Sassy.

            PPS. xoxoxoxo

      • Jayson Flores

        And if I’m half a man, what’s the other half of me? Woman? Because I’m totally fine with that. Women are amazing.

  • Wilder

    Have you not heard of the Travon Martin Award and the Salon writer suggesting that blacks just kill white people if trials or whatever else don’t their way. Seems more racist than a picture. And by the way when will a community of people, who have had more money spent on them than any race of people in the history of the world start achieving. When will they find fathers for the 73 percent born out of wedlock, find jobs, leave welfare, close traditionally black institutions and try and make something as a race of themselves.
    My entire life, I have been the victim of discrimination. I am white male; and I cannot recall a single job I applied for that did not say something about minorities are encouraged to apply, or an EOE Affirmative Action Employer.
    Your race is in Black History Month what is that ? I never tire of seeing African American Clubs. Are White American Clubs permissible? Would a completely white school be OK. Of course no. There are two standards; one that deems whatever a white person does as racist and another that deems whatever a black person does as fine.

    Your race is dedicated to failure and will continue to do so, until it understands, its problems are of its own making.
    Children needing Head Start is the failure of an indifferent parent or parents. What parents place importance on is what the child will. No amount of money will change that. No one except your race owes anyone an apology. Y’all squander the money and look for more.

    • matthew brandley


    • Allen Wing

      You do know that Black Colleges were established by the United States Government to allow recently freed Africans to attend college. Until 1963 African Americans were not allowed to attend many State Universities, despite the fact those schools were funded with tax-dollars. Black institutions are in direct response to White America not allow Blacks into various organizations, strictly on the bases of color. Affirmative Action was put into place do to various institutions baring all person that where non-white males from pursuing higher paying jobs and higher education. Its very easy to look at a race of people and be negative towards them and make judgments about them that are based on ignorance, hate and fear. Do you think black people are going to take to the streets and start killing whites to justify the unfairness of the court system? Had the Harvard Times not published the article ” Black Americans have no History” in 1958, perhaps Black Americans would not have felt the need to start a Black History Day, that turned into a week and turned into a month in 1978. I too use to say that black people were sucking up Welfare and slowing down the system until I found out that White Americans are the largest users of welfare ( food stamps, utility assistance, housing assistance ect.). America is becoming less about racial inequality and more about economic inequality, thought I cant deny the racism that has lead to the disenfranchisement of many people, of all races, in America

      • TiredOfBothParties

        You never really address the concerns they hinted at:

        Why is it alright for blacks to have black only organizations, and other race exclusive things. Is it any less racist than if it was the reverse?

        Your random statistic about White americans being the largest users of welfare is also misleading. They receive a larger absolute amount, but given 200 million whites, to 33 million blacks (1998 numbers), black americans should be using 1/6th as much absolute dollars. In reality, black americans received 105 billion in welfare aid, compared to 212 billion for white americans.

        Most apologists will use statistics to muddy the waters, and make legitimate problems seem less than they are. Like claiming that “there are actually more white people in prison, than there are black people”. Which at face value MIGHT be true, but they are dramatically over-represented given their population. And no, it is definitely not some massive racist conspiracy that put them there, having spent several years in prison, I did not meet ANYONE who did not get there by breaking the law.

  • RabbleRabbleRabble

    C’mon, guys, it’s not even a proper noose.

  • Jane Simmons

    so, I wonder what it would be if it were a bunch of dark fellows with a pale mannequin hanging in a noose with a maroon and white jumpsuit on?? I would say aside from all the bickering, the main point is, this is obviously showing what’s in these boys’ hearts…. and they obviously think dark people should hang? I can’t believe people would post this in public, but, dark hearts don’t mind I suppose?

  • Miles Rashaad

    Black Mannequin being hung and surrounded by white people. Black people were hung and surrounded by white people. Racially relative connotation yes.

    White Privilege allows for these kids to not think about racially focused historical events such as picnics displaying the burning and murder of African descendants.

    Kids having fun to express an athletic competitiveness viewed as racist because they are insensitive to Slave Descendants racial experience in this nation.

    Lastly, school pranks against other teams use to just be throwing toilet paper and paint on a school mascot.

  • Richard Colton

    This would be a really great high school OP/ED piece. Just full of outrage. Maya knows America is racist because…a bunch of teenagers took a picture. And she can prove it – with dozens of internet comments.

  • Jane Yavis

    Maya, had I not listened to Christ Stigall’s arrogant, self-serving defense of the boys this morning, perhaps I would have thought your piece was a little over the top, HOWEVER, I did listen to the sophomoric excuses that were made, and of course, I listened to the classic seque to Jesse, Al and all the standard whistles. All of a sudden “Hoodies” were OK and the kid wasn’t doing anything wrong!!!!!

    As often as I hear what comes out of the mouths of some self-appointed, so called Educated, American Value Pillars of their Party, this morning not only took the cake, it reminded me how education doesn’t always erase ignorance, and how easily ignorance can be stirred up by theignorant.

    Your article needed to be written and I could not agree with you more. – (Unfortunately, I had t print this because calls to thin skinned Talk Radio Hosts are only accepted when they “AGREE 100%.)

  • George

    Great article. I feel the same way. I’ve lost some friends over the racist things they’ve said. Racism isn’t dead and it’s not just a southern issue.

  • backliner

    An interesting point of view in this article that racism is a one way street. There seems to be something implicit there in and of itself.