Over the course of the last few days it’s come to light that there is an unfortunate racist problem rearing its ugly head within our township. Several high school students repeatedly iterating a racial slur should serve as both an important focal point for discussion on tackling racism, but also as a warning of the much more severe underlying problems in the current social culture. The time and place for a conversation about these issues which we seem negligent to should have occurred before these unfortunate and despicable actions occurred, but now is just as an opportune moment to do so. While these actions may seem relatively minor in comparison to other acts of racism, this incident reveals only a small layer of racism within the community.
Racism is a trait that is not simply caused by an inebriated state of mind or immediately at birth, but rather it is something that is learned throughout their lifetime. Consider the age of the students in the video and the words they are saying. Clearly they had to have learned them from somewhere, and rap music is simply not the cause. While rap often contains explicit lyrics akin to other genres, it does not use the racial slur utilized in the video in such a hateful way. The hateful connotations of the video are what really seal the deal in making these an act of racism. These racist connotations were learned, not created. Even if believed to be a joke, the joke bears no comedic value and is still explicitly racist. There’s a reason people were saying these things, and if three people learned it there’s a chance other people just haven’t been caught yet.
Responsibility is key in order to solve this issue and tackle it. The township has been diligent in its response to the incident, yet for some the response feels underwhelming at best. Referring to this incident as a teaching moment and shrugging shoulders towards the real institutional causation of racism being normalized within the culture of those students is further contributing to the issue. What the town as a whole needs is an open dialogue and honest look at why this happened, not half-hearted attempts by some to defend these heinous acts. Some people on Facebook have commented that these acts should be dismissed due to teenagers saying things they regret, another person said this was due to anti trump fervor and the radical “left”, while for the most part people condemned these actions. Those who tried to defend these actions or attacking those who fully condemned these actions are both complacent and fall incredibly short of the causes.
Nutley as a whole needs to have a conversation about this and listen to who is impacted. Nutley is not a very diverse town to begin with, and those who are minority residents of the town may feel much more uncomfortable due to this. There’s people with confederate flags in this town and while that is freedom of speech, the message it sends is one historically linked to hatred, separatism and slavery. As stated early, the racism from these students came from somewhere. It didn’t spring up out of nowhere. What we need to do as a town is address where and why. We have a negative reputation already, and this further solidified others views of Nutley in a negative light. If we wish to turn that around, we have to tackle the issue head on. I believe the way to go is an open forum about this issue, followed by expanding anti-racism initiatives in the classroom, as well as more diversity whenever possible. Nutley High already has a fantastic course about the history of race relations, but this should be expanded to all students district wide. We should use these disgraceful comments as a launching pad for dismantling the root causes of racism within our town.