On Friday, Jan. 18 an incident happened after the March for Life at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington involving a group of high school boys, a Native American man named Nathaniel Phillips, and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites. The event showcased exactly why many Americans distrust the media and highlights our tendencies to jump to conclusion if it matches our narrative.
Most likely you have heard about this event in some form or another, but if you somehow haven’t, allow me to summarize: In a video clip that went viral, a scene that triggered millions played out. A 17-year-old boy stood face-to-face with an elderly Native American who was chanting and beating a drum. The boy was wearing a red Make America Great Again hat as he stood, unmoving with a smile, or what many are calling a smug smirk.
The media’s coverage of the incident was an insult to journalism. Many members of the media falsely reported and misrepresented the facts surrounding that video, immediately faulting the MAGA-hat-wearing teens and taking Phillips at his word. I read many reports that claimed the teens were mocking Native American Vietnam veteran and shouting “build the wall,” but since then the video has been extensively examined. There is no evidence that the kids were shouting anything but common school spirit chants and they were only doing so to drown out the racial slurs being shouted at them by the Black Hebrew Israelites.
The teen caught in the middle of this national controversy, Nick Sandmann, released a statement saying he was confused by Philips’ actions and his smile was meant to defuse the situation by remaining calm, not show disrespect.
Since I do not have space to go in depth into all the aspects of this story the media got wrong, I strongly suggest that you investigate for yourself. Watch the interviews with Phillips and Sandmann, listen to what both parties have to say, then watch the full video. You will find that Phillips’ statements often contradict the footage and are full of falsehoods.
In one of the interviews Phillips claimed that the teens surrounded him. They didn’t, he walked into the center of them. In a CNN interview, Phillips twice implied that he served in Vietnam, and in an April 2018 interview with Vogue, Phillips proves to have a history of falsehood when he said, “you know, I’m from Vietnam times. I’m what they call a re-con ranger. That was my role.” Phillips served in the Marines Corps Reserve from 1972 to 1976 as a refrigerator technician and anti-tank missile-man, but was never deployed and even faced AWOL charges at least three times during his service.
I’m not saying that every one of those boys acted in a mature and respectful manner, but I will defend Sandmann. He has been horribly mistreated and slandered by not only the media but those who shared the story on social media brutally condemning Sandmann without ever considering the facts. Sandmann and his family have been receiving death threats and Covington High School had to cancel school due to an alarming number of threats.
Friends, classmates, professors; we have to stop the hatred. Just because someone disagrees with your political views doesn’t make them an evil person. Just because someone wears a Make America Great Again cap doesn’t mean they’re racist and it certainly does not give you just cause to pass judgment on them before you’ve met them. It’s just a hat, and like it or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States and was put into power by the people of the United States. You have every right to show support for him just as you have every right to show disdain. But next time you see someone sporting that controversial hat, before becoming angry and glaring daggers at them, take that chance to ask that person about their political views and why they support President Trump. Maybe you’ll be surprised at their answer and learn something, maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s an opportunity to understand a different point of view and an important stepping stone in bridging the divide in our country.