A contentious photo that went viral on social media has left a North Carolina high school perplexed.
After sharing a photo of a water fountain with a sign that read “WHITE” to Snapchat, students from Piedmont High School generated anger. Many others thought the graphic looked too much like the “whites only” signs that were used to maintain segregation in public places in the South during the Jim Crow era.
“I can only think how many people saw that since all of these kids are so interconnected on social media, especially on Snapchat in that age group,” a former student told WSOC-TV news station.
With no way of knowing how many pupils viewed or shared the photo, the school’s principal, Dylan Stamey, confronted the issue head-on. Stamey claimed the event was looked into in a letter sent to parents on Sept. 21 — which can’t be located on the school or district websites — and provided a sort of justification for why the sign was at the school in the first place.
“A cheer sign was left on the floor just outside the gym during practice, and it was picked up and placed on a water fountain. We looked into it and came to the conclusion that the location was not done on purpose,” he stated.
Stamey could not provide any additional information about how the cheer squad used the sign or why a student chose to place it on the fountain, but Union County Public Schools spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte told the Charlotte Observer this week that “the school colors are blue and white.” The symbol in question is a cheer sign commonly seen at sporting events.”
Those cliched justifications, along with the present racial atmosphere online, made it simple for many on social media to claim the sign was placed on the water fountain with malice in mind.
On Facebook, someone remarked, “STUPIDITY AT ITS FINEST.”
“It’s difficult to think this person’s actions were unintended! Please don’t forget about me on that one!!!”
“Today’s youngsters are the result of certain parents who practice bigotry at home. I don’t care how many “black” coworkers you have. Racism is still alive and well!”
Another person questioned the school’s investigation procedure, demanding that proof of what happened be made public so that people may draw their own conclusions.
“Release the ostensibly investigative documents! Things are constantly brushed under the rug to protect people and avoid looking bad. It’s simple to adjust or obscure minor elements to make something appear unintentional.”
Another person who believes the sign was not made maliciously shared their own opinions on why the school would have a sign labeled “white.”
“It’s from the cheerleaders…from the football game,” says the narrator. Red, white, and blue are the school colors.”
The city of Monroe, where the school is located, has a population of around 35,000 people, according to the Census Bureau; white people make up 66 percent of the population, while African-Americans make up at least 25 percent.