OPINION: Don’t just blame the Covington Catholic school boys


Phoebe Monsour

As a Kentuckian, a high school student and a former Catholic school student, I am embarrassed by the actions of the Covington Catholic school boys.

The students, who attend a private school in Kentucky, went on a trip to March for Life in Washington D.C. At a separate Indiginous Peoples March, the group surrounded a Native American, chanting “build the wall,” among other things.

There has been a major outrage, with the prospect of expulsions in the air, but I remain unsurprised. I am unsurprised as a Kentuckian, as high school student and as someone who has attended Catholic school for nine years of my life.

In Kentucky, we have had much worse.

Recently, Gregory Bush was “accused of killing two black shoppers at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, Ky,” and was charged with a hate crime according to NPR.

A few years ago, Kentucky became famous for Kim Davis, who refused to hand out marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled that restricting same sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Kentucky often also brings to mind stereotypes of racist and homophobic “rednecks” with bare feet and a disregard for nuanced social discourse.

Similarly, high school students have often targeted others.

In September, Ballard students passed around a watermelon during a football game, presumably to mock predominantly black Central High School. While an African American started the incident, according to the Courier Journal, Louisville’s NAACP believes the actions to be representative of a greater problem. The organization suggested that JCPS should take the initiative and address student ignorance, with ideas such as “discussing the incident in each school to grow racial sensitivity.”

Many viral videos of racist teens cause them to lose college scholarships and receive backlash from a national audience, such as this student.

I am also aware of the issues of Catholic schools. When I attended a Catholic middle school, most of my classmates were white. Once, attempting to point this out in a discussion about “To Kill a Mockingbird,” my teacher asked me if I was calling the school racist. I wasn’t. I was merely pointing out the cultural divide between white and black people in America, in Louisville and in our classroom. But at the time I did not have the words to express what I was thinking, so I let it go.

The issue has never been Kentucky, has never been the students and has never been Catholic schools. The issue has always been ignorance. These students did not understand the disrespect they showed, as they probably have little exposure to those they mocked. What little they had could not possibly bring out the nuances of the issues.

I am not appalled at these students. They probably just ruined their lives, at least in the short term. As a deterrent, this may be necessary. But hiding racists away is not going to make them disappear. They will just be more quiet about it, like they were before Trump made hate mainstream.

We need real conversations about race and indigenous culture. We need to be able to have these conversations, and put our own prejudices to the test. We need to break through our preconceived notions and teach others how to do the same.

I believe everyone is a little bit racist. By that I mean, everyone has a bit of bias. The point isn’t to condemn yourself for whatever ideas you hold, but to rethink those ideas.

Eventually, if we are taught about these issues, if we teach critical thinking and self examination, we can stop the outward response to this internal problem.

“Empty Classroom” by ajalfaro on Flickr is public domain. No changes were made to the original image. Use of the image does not indicate photographer endorsement of the article.