N'Senga Kinzonzi, a sophomore at Minisink Valley High School, had a classmate not only call her the N-word but also state that the girl needed to be lynched. The threat was made on Snapchat in the form of a caption on a photo taken of her.
It broke my heart to see the video of Kinzonzi talking about the incident because you could see on her face just how horrified she was. She decided to give her classmate the benefit of the doubt and explain to them why their caption was unacceptable. Kinzonzi stated,
"I thought maybe he doesn't know the history and I thought I'd take an educational approach and inform the student about the history behind this hurtful caption."
I am immensely impressed that she had the strength to go out of her way and tell her classmate about the history of the slur. It was not her responsibility, and frankly, I would not have blamed her if she had chosen to lash out instead because her life was in danger and she was being dehumanized by being called the N-word.
The teen's classmate ended up apologizing after being educated by her and many students from their school have come out in support of Kinzonzi. However, she has also been facing additional harassment from some students. Her family was disappointed by the school district's response and have been demanding that the school take action. Kinzonzi's grandmother, Drusilla Kinzonzi, suggested that the school should have more sensitivity training for its staff and students and that the school's administration should be more diverse. She went on to say,
"And if we're not teaching all of American history, we are not teaching."
Kinzozi's grandmother makes a good point because school should be the place where young people learn about the discrimination that different marginalized groups face so that they can sympathize with them and unlearn the oppressive ideas that have been ingrained in them by society. Many people seem to believe that we live in a post-racial society and if this is the sentiment that the teachers at Minisink hold, they may not have seen the importance in teaching their students about lynchings the racist history behind the N-word since racism is "no longer an issue."
This could potentially be the reason as to why Kinzozi's classmate did not know why it was offensive for them to call her the N-word and say she needed to be lynched. However, I feel like the chances of the student genuinely being unaware of the implications of their words is slim at best. Of course, we all make mistakes in regards to racism and other social justice issues but trying to convince others to lynch one of your classmates is far too violent to be a mistake.
The severity and danger of Kinzozi's classmate's threat seem to have been lost on some because the teen's mother, Nicole Kinzozi, has had to emphasize how disturbing the situation truly was. She stated,
"This was a threat made on her life, and there was a call for others to participate in this. The caption said 'we' must lynch her."
It is disheartening to know that even though this was a clear threat, the school district has not done enough. Kinzozi's classmate should be expelled and have charges pressed against them. I believe that the school district most likely brushed off the situation either because Kinzozi's classmate apologized or because they saw the Snapchat caption as some form of a joke. Either way, Kinzozi was clearly terrified as a result of the Snapchat and she should have been given more support, especially since there were more students harassing her at the school after the Snapchat was posted.
Kinzozi's family decided to take the matter into their own hands and hire civil rights attorney Michael Sussman in order to make sure that no one else ever has to face the same situation. They also have a meeting scheduled with Brian Monohan, the school district's superintendent. I hope that the family will be given proper support and will be able to find peace.