When news of a student racially harassing a Kearney sophomore spread on social media this weekend, the mothers of my high school friends displayed outrage, unaware that several years ago this was their sons, too.
I walked the halls of Kearney High School between 2011 and 2014, participating in racist rhetoric about Barack Obama and joking about the Holocaust, always with the name of our Jewish classmate as the punchline. Someone once painted a swastika on her driveway, too. On a church-sponsored mission trip, the boys, one of whom is now a self-avowed white supremacist, stayed up all night making jokes about the Native Americans we were there to serve.
Every April 4th, it was popular among my friends to wish one another a “Happy James Earl Ray Day.” At lunch my freshman year, one of our friends stood up and circled the table, punching each of us that said it squarely in the shoulder. After he finished, he sat down and no one said a word. We knew he was right and that we deserved it, but it didn’t change us.
This behavior continues on the Instagram pages of our younger siblings, with posts full of misogynistic, racist jokes, no different than those we made not too long ago — all of us boys.
I don’t know what will change KHS, but pretending racist behavior is categorized solely by the use of the N-word, ignoring the multiplicity of actions that constitutes the spectrum of racism, won’t help us get better.