“Color Wars” has been a longstanding homecoming tradition at Polson High School in Montana — which has carried on seamlessly — until now, when a couple of students took things too far.
The concept behind Color Wars is a friendly competition between different grades to determine which class is most spirited.
Each grade is assigned a color — black is for seniors, white is for juniors, blue is for sophomores, and green is for freshmen, according to the Washington Post.
Whichever class has the most students dressed in their designated color wins.
Sadly, a couple of students used the competition as a means to promote white supremacy. One male and one female student from the junior class showed up at the homecoming rally wearing white t-shirts that read, “Trump 2016" and "White Pride” on the back.
The homemade shirts also included “offensive and inappropriate” messages on the front, according to Polson District Superintendent Rex Weltz.
The male student’s shirt had a confederate flag on the front with the word “REDNECK” spelled out in red lettering while the girl’s shirt said, “WHITE POWER.” Both phrases were written boldly in all caps.
Although the administration reportedly told the students to change immediately, photos of them had already hit the social media scene, thanks to handy-dandy smartphones.
“The Polson School District does not and will not tolerate harassment or discrimination in any form toward any person,” Weltz wrote in a statement. “As a District we are disappointed in the actions of those few students and will take appropriate action based on our policies and procedures, which may include discipline for the individual students. We applaud the students who stood up against this conduct and will continue to educate all of our students about our policies and practices forbidding discrimination in any form.”
Caitlin Borgmann, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, has launched an investigation into the incident to make sure the high school has sufficient anti-bullying and anti-racism policies implemented.
"It is important to remember that, while all students have First Amendment rights, schools have the authority and the responsibility to prohibit speech that is harmful to other students, and to maintain a safe learning environment,” Borgmann said in a statement. “This incident sadly reflects how we are failing our children in teaching them mutual tolerance and respect for those of different backgrounds.”
Polson is a predominately white city located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. A group of Native American activists staged a protest last Friday night at the high school football game, following the t-shirt ordeal.
“Our kids should be able to go to school and not worry about people saying one race is better than another,” said Dustin Monroe, founder of the group Native Generational Change, who organized the demonstration.
Although the students responsible need to face some consequences for their thoughtless actions, Weltz noted that future spirit activities for the student body would not be affected by this incident.
Some may suggest that assigning white as a color for the competition in the first place opened the floodgates for something like this to happen.
However, is it really a far-fetched idea to expect students to be respectful and wholesome in their clothing choices for a school event?
Furthermore, the activity has reportedly been facilitated by the school for years without this type of behavior taking place. It isn’t the color that is the issue; it’s the national racial climate that sparked this type of conduct.
The normalization of racism and hate by people like Donald Trump is what opened the door to this blatant, unapologetic bigotry happening throughout the country — as evidenced by the fact that the male Polson student had “Trump 2016” written on his shirt.
You can bet that if Trump ends up in the White House, there is only more of this to come.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Carlo Allegri