Clearing Up Misinformation About Covington Catholic’s Viral Photos

Clearing Up Misinformation About Covington Catholic’s Viral Photos January 22, 2019

We all know the story. Or at least we think we do. Except that the story changes depending on who you talk to or what you read.

“The Covington Catholic High School kids taunted and disrespected a Native American Vietnam War vet.”

“A group of Black Hebrew Israelites harassed and berated a bunch of white kids wearing MAGA hats.”

“An old man beating a drum instigated a confrontation with kids shouting school spirit chants.”

I’m not going to pretend I know who was in the wrong and who was in the right, or who started the problem or what everyone should have done instead. There are so many angles and sides to this confrontation that no matter what stance I take, I’m probably going to be wrong — because face it, I wasn’t there, and neither were you. Yes, there are a few videos from the event. But what happened before those? What happened after? What did the videos not capture? We’ll never know. Yes, it’s quite possible these MAGA-adorning kids could be racist little overprivileged douchebags who need Statue of Liberty figurines shoved up their asses so they remember what it means. Ok, that part is probably true. What I will say for certain is that the entire thing is upsetting, and I’m fairly certain there was a better way to react to this conflict for all involved. I’m just glad there was no violence.

But what irritates me about all of this is the viral campaign of misinformation and propaganda that has resulted since, and it’s making the Left look bad. In order to bolster the case that the Covington kids are racist as f— (and yes they probably are), people went digging for photos of Covington kids on the web that prove that the school is some kind of KKK training ground. And of course (in their minds) they found what they were looking for and spread it all over the interwebs.

But context is important.

I’m going to focus on the two photos I’ve seen the most. Here’s the first. This is being posted all over blogs and social media, claiming that the Covington kids in this photo are flashing “white power” hand signals.

Can we just put on our “critical thinking” caps for one second? I realize that sports aren’t always big with the “everything is racist and if you disagree so are you” crowd, but this is the hand signal for a made 3-point basket. I’ve been playing basketball for as long as I can remember, and I’ve seen or made this gesture while playing hundreds of times. Absolutely none of those times was anyone signaling the strength of his race. This is a photo of a basketball team making a hand gesture for a 3-pointer. And that’s all it is. Suggesting it’s anything else is just a display of your own confirmation bias and lack of objectivity.

The other photo circulating around is the “blackface” photo. This one is a little more difficult to explain but I’ll give it a shot. Before I do though, I will say this. I am not defending what’s in this photo, and I’m not condoning blackface. I’m simply offering an explanation from an objective point of view. As ill-advised as the body paint in this photo is, intent matters.

Four kids in this photo have their faces and upper bodies painted black. They did it for a reason and it’s not what you may think. This is called a fan blackout. Sometimes at sports events, teams will organize a blackout. That means all of the fans dress in as much black clothing as they can. When everyone does it, it looks pretty cool and many believe it’s intimidating to the opposing team. Unfortunately, some students went a little too far and ended up doing something that looks to an outsider as pretty damn racist. But again, it’s the intent that matters. Did the kids in this photo do it as an attempt to mimic a black person? I honestly don’t think so.

Snopes even did some research on this photo and found this:

Based on comments in the BluegrassPreps message board, the intent of the black body paint was not racial but was instead a school tradition related to “black out” games, during which fans wore black to support the team.

Should they have been turned away at the door by faculty and coaches? Absolutely, yes. Just as intent is important, so are optics. Regardless of intent, I agree, this makes the school look bad and the kids should have been educated about it and turned away.

As for those claiming the school is racist because they’re yelling at an opposing black player, we can find this answer easily online. Covington has a reputation for screaming at opposing players when inbounding the ball on their sideline, regardless of race. But again, those who suffer from confirmation bias will see all of this as racism because they want to, not because they’re objectively weighing the evidence.

I’ll just close with this bit of advice. Call the Covington Catholic School kids who were in Washington DC racist all day long. If that’s the conclusion you come to based on the video evidence, that’s your right. I’m not going to disagree with you. I have a hard time believing anyone wearing a MAGA hat in 2019 isn’t racist. But don’t make that conclusion based on these photos or support your conclusion with these photos. It weakens your case and makes you look like an alarmist with no critical thinking skills.


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