April 8, 2020

A stare-down and a story of disrespect

America’s ignorance is getting swept under the rug, and the depth of the ignorance only grows.

Friday, Jan. 18 was the Indigenous People’s March at the Lincoln Memorial—the activities that happened at this rally have since swept social media and news outlets.

The video is Nick Sandmann, a Covington Catholic High School student, standing inches from Nathan Phillips, an Omaha Tribe elder, with a mocking, hateful face as Phillips chanted in his native tongue.

The video was shot by Kaya Taitano, a participant of the march, and shows a group of teenagers decked out in ‘Make America Great Again’ gear. The students were circling, jeering, taunting, and yelling sayings like “Build the Wall” and “Trump 2020.”

The Kentucky students were at the memorial for a March for Life rally.

The tension began when four African American Hebrew Israelites began yelling at the Native Americans and the group of high schoolers. Phillips decided to step in, chanting and singing a healing prayer to try to defuse the situation.

Phillips was making his way through the crowd, eventually stopping in front of Sandmann, who refused to move. The crowd circled around Phillips, creating what Phillips and others said was a hostile environment.

As a journalist, I’ve been taught that every story needs to have both sides told, but it’s not always an easy thing to do.

Supporters of the students have claimed that they were unfairly vilified because of the context. They said that the reason they were disrespectful was because they had been challenged politically all day in the March for Life rally, and that there were too many instigators to decide where the lines should be drawn.


But because this is my opinion article, I get to say that the actions of the disrespectful students are not excused by the context.

I was a high schooler.

I know how easy it is to get with your friends and make fun of the person who’s trying to be serious because it’s easier to make fun of it than actually address it. And that is what those teens did, they saw something that they were unfamiliar with and instead of treating Phillips with the same level of respect he gave, they chose to laugh, mock, and jeer at him.

The disrespect made me sick, every time the video came up on my social media, I watched it. I let it get under my skin, let myself get bothered until I wrote about it because frankly, events like this are too easily swept under the rug, die out, and are never reprimanded.

Just because this instance wasn’t violent and deadly doesn’t mean that it was any less offensive.

Quinn Morgan, a former Capital student, is Native American. Quinn educated me on the history of the mistreatment of Native Americans better than any textbook could have.

“The encounter was very indicative of the prejudices and misconceptions people have about native cultures,” Morgan said. “The mocking of a prayer song, being sung by not only by a war veteran but a prominent member of the Omaha people, was a way to show that although the border wall is outwardly meant to keep immigrants out, it really is a monument to white supremacy and a show of power to all people of color, including First Nations Peoples. All in all, this incident was nothing new.”

And that’s the problem. Prejudice is nothing new to people of color. Prejudice is allowed to live in our society, is perpetuated by our president, and is being taught to the next generation. This prejudice has gone unchecked and swept under the rug.

“This incident is nothing new and Nathan Phillips was a paragon of how many indigenous people face and continue to face these discriminatory gestures,” Morgan said.

  • Julie is the web editor of the Chimes and is a third-year Professional Writing and Journalism and Creative Writing major at Capital University. jsmallsreed@capital.edu

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