There is opportunity when racism declares itself. And for the second time in one year, Riverside-Brookfield High School has been presented that opportunity after racist graffiti was again found in a bathroom on campus. Same bathroom and possibly the same perpetrator, according to the school.
But after more or less muffing the response last time, school administrators were active last week in offering transparency and speed in acknowledging the incident. A year ago, it took the school six days to publicly disclose the graffiti. This year, parents received a same-day email from Principal Kristin Smetana explaining the discovery and, more importantly, making clear the school's intolerance of racism and its determination to rally students to speak out against it.
"Displays of racism of any kind will not be tolerated and we are committed to providing additional opportunities for our students," she wrote.
Before the week was out, students gathered with Assistant Principal Dave Mannon to talk about the racist display and a range of possible responses. An article in The Clarion, the RB newspaper, laid out the thoughts of students, which ranged from a Hate Has No Home Here sign campaign to celebrating the International Day of Tolerance in November.
Mannon said that expanding cultural awareness was already a key goal at RB this year. "The focus this year is increasing our cultural awareness in this building. … We are absolutely not going down the same road we went down last year. … We are going to jump out in front of this thing this year and be really vocal and transparent about it."
At a moment in American life where the president touts equivalency between white supremacists and those right-minded people opposing them, it can hardly be a surprise that we're back to pathetic people scrawling on bathroom walls.
This is America. This is Brookfield. This is Riverside. And not for a moment can this behavior be tolerated or normalized.