Six white girls from Phoenix, Arizona thought it was funny. They posed in a line and spelled out a word. They posted it to Snapchat, but it found its way to Twitter and beyond. These ignorant young women thought that posting a photo of themselves spelling ni**er was okay. They look like they are having a good time. How lucky for them to be so privileged as to be able to use a horrible word that has been linked to lynchings, shootings, murders and so many racist incidents and laugh while doing so. How lucky for them to not know what young black women and men go through each and every day of their less privileged lives; especially as they get older and come to understand that the foundations of their existence as Americans is far different than their white counterparts.

These young women are old enough to know better. They are about to graduate from high school. What does this say about Desert Vista, Arizona and the community that raised these girls?  How could they get this far and be so clueless?  Already commenters on articles written about this piece are saying it’s a free speech issue, and once again weaving their words around the mutterings of “stop being so politically correct.”  Free speech is free speech, but there are consequences to hate speech. These girls stood up for hate, for an unconsciousness that we can no longer afford. But it shouldn’t surprise us. Not when Donald Trump proclaims his racist views from atop of the GOP field of candidates for President. It shouldn’t surprise us when Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Thomas declared, as they gutted the Voting Rights Act, that racism was no longer a factor. And it shouldn’t surprise us when black people stand up for themselves proclaiming that #blacklivesmatter only to be called a terrorist group.

The media, for the most part, is abiding by the law, and is not showing the faces of the girls because they are minors. But that isn’t how they posted it. They posted it for all to see with their smiling faces and giggling looks. Young black men and women don’t get to cover their faces, or hide when they are judged each and every day by the color of their skin and not the ‘content of their character.’ Clearly they didn’t think or care about their black classmates. And any excuse that black kids use the same word should fall on deaf ears of any thinking person. Any attempt, even if it is an ill-advised one, by a black youth to co-opt the word somehow and in so doing deprive it of its horror is understandable.

These young women may have made a “mistake.” Too bad. What they did should resonate with them, their parents and their community for a long time to come. They should be punished for their offensive contribution to an imperfect world.

A few months from now this will be water under the bridge for these girls. They will or will not go on to college, but all will live a life of privilege. Their black classmates will never enjoy that promise until people like this, girls like this, get that what they did and are doing, is contributing to a society bereft of hope for too many. They and we who are white are responsible for a society based on inequality and one in which the American Dream is for too few and a life of freedom too far.

-Jan Harrison

Image credit: Vincent Oppecker


  1. It is a perfect example of their privileged position in our culture, although as women, they are very close to being reminded that they, too, are second class.

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