This past weekend I joined hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers in our nation’s capital for the 46th annual March for Life. Per usual, this massive event received little to no attention from the national media. What did receive vast coverage, however, was an altercation between a group of students from Covington Catholic High School and a group of Native American protestors.
The first videos released by the protestors of their interaction were unsettling. They claimed that boys wearing “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) -hats-surrounded them, mocked them, and tried to intimidate them outside the Lincoln Memorial. Nathan Phillips — a well-known Native American activist — claimed these boys chanted “build the wall” and hurled racially insensitive remarks at him and his fellow protestors.
At first glance, the videos seemed to back his story and many, including myself, rushed to condemn the boys’ actions. People from both sides of the political aisle took these short videos as evidence of racism, harassment or, at the very least, immaturity on the part of the students. Some went so far as to dox these teenagers in an attempt to ruin their college or future plans. Others contacted Covington Catholic’s principal demanding these students be punished and expelled for their actions. Eventually, the high school had to suspend class because of the litany of threats being levied from people around the country.
As the story went viral, however, it quickly became apparent that there was more to the story than what was presented by Phillips and his associates. A much longer video of the interaction soon surfaced, telling a very different narrative. This video showed that, unlike Phillips’ account, the adult protestor actually approached the group of boys and began beating his drum in their faces, not the other way around. Also contradictory to the initial narrative, a group of black nationalist protesters, known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, were the ones hurling racial and homophobic slurs at the high school students as well as the Native Americans far before the interaction between Phillips and the high schoolers. Others were also heard shouting at the boys, “You, white people, go back to Europe, this is not your land.”
In a statement released by the Covington Catholic students, they presented a story that seemed to match the extended video much more than the narrative that was spreading on social media. The boys claimed that while waiting for their buses to arrive, they began singing school songs and yelling chants to pass the time and drown out the hatred the Black Hebrew Israelites were spewing. When Phillips entered their group they were confused as to whether he was joining them or not; a confusion they pointed to as the reason they clapped along with him — not because they were trying to mock him. Also consistent with the video, there are no accounts of “build the wall” chants, or any bigoted comments made by the boys.
Like many others, I was quick to pass judgment and condemnation onto people I did not know in a situation devoid of context. I was adamant and vocal that these students did not represent the pro-life movement and, in fact, greatly harmed the cause through their actions. As I gained perspective and saw the full-length video, I was embarrassed and infuriated. Why would anyone try to destroy the lives of teenagers over something they didn’t do? Are people really willing to go to such lengths to push a political agenda? The unfortunate answer is a resounding yes.
Did these students act perfectly? No. Should we have expected perfection from them in such a strange situation? Probably not. Is this interaction evidence of racism from some MAGA supporting teens? Certainly not. Am I and those like me partially to blame for the explosion of this false narrative throughout the country? Likely, yes.
So let’s learn from our mistakes. Wait for all the facts to come in before passing judgment. Unfortunately, we live in a time where political agendas take precedence over reality. Be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Whether you are a journalist for a major outlet or simply an egg on Twitter with 100 followers, you hold more responsibility than you know.