Racist Photo Sparks NAACP Conversation to ‘Move Past the Hate’

Duluth School Board Members, Superintendent Attend Meeting to Listen, Learn

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A racist picture that went viral sparked a community conversation to move past the hate Thursday.

People are still in shock after a student snapped a picture of a black student and drew a noose around his neck.

Duluth school officials say they’re taking the situation seriously, but the Duluth NAACP is taking matters into its own hands asking the community to come up with ideas on how to better educate students on race.

The NAACP called Thursday’s meeting a facilitated conversation.

They hope it’ll build relationships, trust, and teach people to appreciate each other for their differences.

“When I was younger I would hear certain words and I would fight about it,” said lifelong Duluthian and second vice president of the NAACP, Stephan Witherspoon. “Now I’m using my brain to fight with that.”

As dozens of adults pulled their chairs into a unified circle, they were all there to accomplish the same task: to ensure a racist picture never goes viral again.

“This was very traumatizing for me,” said NAACP President, Claudie Washington. “It was traumatizing to the kid.”

The photo was snapped by a student at Denfeld High School a few weeks ago and since it has gone viral, community members have stepped up with the hope of moving past the hate.

“Racism is alive and well. They have been in denial,” said Washington. “As long as people are in denial then we still have a problem.”

A handful of Duluth School Board members and Superintendent Bill Gronseth attended the meeting to listen and hear opinions on how to better respond to serious situations.

“Sometimes it’s difficult in situations like this because with data privacy laws we can’t always share how we’re responding specifically to any situation,” Superintendent Gronseth explained. “While I can tell you the school district is taking this very seriously, I can’t share specific details about how we’re responding.”

NAACP officials say they’re disappointed on how the district handled the sensitive topic.

“I don’t think they’ve spoken out sufficiently. I don’t think they’ve done anything efficiently,” said Washington. “I just believe that this is an opportunity for them to make a bold statement about their concern.”

While the photo is shocking to most, a handful of community members had a different reaction.

“Not shocked at all,” said Witherspoon. “I’m born and raised here and I’ve been going through this my whole life.”

They hope Thursday’s meeting is just the first step in getting rid of racism in Duluth.

Like any major community change, the NAACP knows tolerance isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s a process.

Friday afternoon, representatives from Education Minnesota are coming to Duluth to give the district advice on how to close the gap in inequality.

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