A day or two after the presidential election, an incident in a middle school in Royal Oak, Michigan, created a media-driven controversy. A very short video shot in the school’s cafeteria captured a small number of students chanting, “Build that wall! Build that wall!” The video, released by an immigration activist, went viral. The administration went into panic mode in order to quell the outrage and to assuage their apparent embarrassment.
According to local news reports, the chanted words made a few children of Hispanic origin cry. There is no video to confirm this, and I am not inclined to take the media at their word.
The expected conclusion to draw from the report was that a handful of students used the chant to make Hispanic children feel unwanted. Perhaps they did. Or perhaps they were simply celebrating Mr. Trump’s election. Only they know for sure.
What has not been reported is that the release of the video led to many vile words and threats aimed at the students via social media. For example, one post said, “Two Latinos should enter the school and start shooting.” Another post said that all the white kids should be put on buses and then driven off a cliff. Just recently, a number of protesters interrupted a basketball game at the school, wearing shirts that read, “Do I look illegal?” We must keep in mind that we are dealing with twelve-year-old children. Do they deserve to be targets of such hatred?
Regardless of the motivation of the chanters, one cannot ignore the politics that surrounds this issue. The “Build that wall!” chant was a rallying cry for those who supported Donald Trump and attended his rallies. Obviously, it was an affirmation of Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S./Mexican border in order to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into this country. Many people believe that our open-border policy has placed an enormous cultural, economic, security, and social burden on our society. There is compelling evidence that this is the case.
But what if we changed the narrative? What if the students had chanted, “Lock her up!” “Lock her up!”? Of course, this was another favorite chant at Trump rallies and was used in reference to Hillary Clinton and her violation of several U.S. laws. Now who would be offended by such a chant? Little girls in general? Or just little girls who want to be criminals some day? How many girls in that lunch room would have internalized the chant as an attack upon them? I’ll bet none.
Which brings us back to the wall. The wall chant can only be offensive if the idea of a wall is somehow racist at worst or insensitive at best. But who decides? Apparently, those who favor open borders, and, by doing so, have no respect for the laws of this nation. This is why we have anywhere from eleven to thirty million illegals in this nation and why we have sanctuary cities led by mayors who defy the laws to protect law breakers. This is also why illegals are almost 36% of the inmates in federal jails.
And as for the obsession of protecting the feelings of some students, why does the “Sensitivity Train” only go in one direction? Most public schools show no concern for the feelings of Christian students. They have to swallow every new perversion that raises its ugly head, from “Days of Silence” to draw attention to supposed discrimination against homosexual students, to “Homecoming Queen and Queen,” and to so-called transgender students who have a right to use the bathroom or locker room of their choice. If a Christian kid complains or feels uncomfortable, he is either laughed at or counseled for his obvious bigotry.
Someone once said that those who control the language control the debate. In other words, the words and phrases we use can have a great impact on how people see a certain issue. For example, it was no accident that the “homosexual marriage” campaign was promoted as a civil rights issue. After all, most Americans react negatively to the suggestion that someone is being deprived of a civil right, even if they haven’t really thought about what constitutes a civil right. Now, had the “homosexual marriage” crowd used the slogan, “Buggery Rights for All!”, it is likely that their support would have been significantly less than what it was.
So, what’s important here is not to allow the open-border or the anti-Trump crowd to control the debate. Building a wall to protect American citizens and to secure our sovereignty is as rational as it is laudable. Unless there is a school rule that prohibits chants of any kind in the cafeteria, the “Build that wall!” chant must not be characterized as hate speech. This is how the left erodes the First Amendment.
And for those few students who were supposedly upset by the chant, it would be a better idea for teachers to explain the context of the chant and the purpose of the First Amendment. It would also be a good idea to dissuade them of the thought that they are defined by their ancestors’ nationality. They are individuals who should be judged by their goodness or lack of the same. As a matter of fact, that would be a terrific lesson for the entire nation.
THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children’s book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.