As students, teachers, and other school employees return to the classroom for in-person learning, many are worried about the novel coronavirus. Unfortunately (and frankly, unsurprisingly), COVID-19 is not the only horror people have to worry about. Racism is still alive and well in America’s school systems, with one recent example coming out of Salinas High School in Salinas, California.
As reported by local outlet KION, students at the high school created an Instagram account where they posted photos of a Black baby doll. Students dubbed the doll “Shaniqua” and posted photos and videos that included, for example, two white students stomping on the doll and others posing the doll in sexually suggestive positions. Now, students and parents want answers—and actual accountability for the people involved.
The account, which had the username “shaniqua.shs,” has been deactivated, but screenshots went viral on Twitter. Here is one of the more popular threads.
"These kids feel comfortable enough to do this on campus at a football game where there’s parents, where there's staff members, and other children,” said parent Mercedes to KION. “Nobody saw this go on? Nobody saw that there was something wrong with this?”
"Some of the things in those pictures [...] are stereotypes, direct stereotypes,” Sunil Smith, a member of the African American Advisory Committee for the school district, told the outlet. Smith and her peer agree that this Instagram account points to a bigger issue with a lack of diversity education.
In speaking to Monterey County Weekly, parent Hannah Frances says this incident pulls racism from just within TV and into her children’s reality. Frances, who has two biracial children, told the outlet that posts shared on the account could be traumatizing for children and teens of color. She says that if the district doesn’t address racism, “it could be really devastating” for students and families.
Julian Henderson, a student at the high school, told local news outlet KSBW that students drew “crosses on the eyes” of the doll, added an ankle monitor, and put a bandana around her neck before proceeding to “spin her around.” Henderson described it as “really disgusting” and said he hopes the “digital footprint” follows the students involved when they begin applying to colleges.
Catalina Perez, a freshman at the high school, told the outlet it was “really messed up” and that she feels the students involved deserve to be suspended.
The district gave a statement to KION, stressing that it does not condone this behavior. The district asks families to speak with their children about the “damaging effects of racist behavior,” which is a long, delicate way of saying “racism.” The district also says counseling is available at all schools.
School principal Elizabeth Duethman sent a letter to parents on Aug. 23, asking folks to “restrain” themselves from posting about the incident on social media, and added that students are receiving threats due to speculation. Duethman said the school’s investigation is still ongoing.
In just a few days, a petition on Change.org calling for students involved to be disciplined has more than 5,000 signatures.
You can check out the interview with students at the high school below.