Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions of racism and racist comments.
LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park High School is facing criticism after students created and shared a video this week making racist comments.
The video, posted to YouTube Tuesday, shows students interviewing each other about which races they would never date and discussing the reasons why.
“I wouldn’t date Indians,” one student says in the video. “I feel like they gonna blow a motherf–ker up.”
“I feel like they’re all just ugly to me,” another student says about Indian people. “If I make them mad, they’ll bomb me,” another student says.
Another of the 16 students interviewed in the four-and-a-half minute video said they wouldn’t date Chinese people because they might “eat my dog or something.” Other students made similarly disparaging and racist comments about Asian, Latinx and white people.
“White girls” have AIDS and herpes and sh-t.” another student said. “I can’t do no pink meat.”
The video was viewed more than 400 times before it was removed Wednesday afternoon.
Principal Eric Steinmiller informed parents about the video in a letter sent to the community Wednesday afternoon, stressing that bullying and hate speech are not allowed at the school. But a parent who reported the video to school leaders said it reflects a “toxic culture” that drove her to pull her daughter, a junior, out of the school in November.
“Sadly, it was not a shock seeing the video,” said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her daughter’s privacy. “This is what it looks like in the school, and it’s posted on YouTube for everyone to see.”
‘I don’t want to be a part of this school anymore’
The high school, 2001 N. Orchard St., enrolls just over 2,100 students, according to state data. Its student body is majority minority: 32.5 percent is Latinx, 20.5 percent Black, and 10.1 percent Asian. About 32 percent of students are white.
The mother alerted Steinmiller about the video after someone sent it to her daughter Wednesday morning, she said.
“[My daughter] was so disgusted by it, she took her old Lincoln Park High School sweatshirt and school ID she’d been holding onto and threw them in the trash,” the mother said. “She told me, ‘I’m so done with this whole culture. I don’t want to be a part of this school anymore.'”
Years of racist bullying started when her daughter was a freshman, the mother said. Kids would make racist comments about her Indian heritage and tease her for her ethnicity.
“But I think what really got her into trouble is she likes to wear this big bindi on her head — a big dot that is a symbol of culture for Hindus,” the mother said. “She would wear that to school as a part of wanting to affirm who she is, but people kept making comments and stuff.”
The mother asked whether her daughter wanted to stop wearing the bindi, but she was adamant to keep it on.
“I don’t want to give up. I want to be myself,” she’d tell her mother.
But the bullying escalated until October, when her daughter was attacked by two other kids while leaving school, her mother said.
“A couple of them came up and started pushing her around and jostling her, demanding she take the bindi off,” her mother said. “They made all kinds of comments about the bindi and eventually my daughter tried to push back, got out of the way and ran home.”
The mother tried to console her daughter that the bullying would end, but “she was terrified,” she said. Her daughter was too shaken to report the students out of fear of retaliation.
The mother reported the incident anyway to Steinmiller, as well as to the school’s dean, Local School Council members and all her daughter’s teachers, she said. She said her daughter’s grades and attendance suffered because she couldn’t focus and was scared to go to school.
“We didn’t feel like anything was happening, and we realized her education was going nowhere, so we ended up having to pull her out of Lincoln Park High School,” she said.
The daughter feels safer at private school, but watching the video Wednesday morning reminded her of the racist things other students would say to her, she said. She thinks Lincoln Park High School should be investigated to ensure sure no one else is subjected to the type of racism her daughter was.
“The fact that my daughter experienced all she did and then this video happening has me worried there’s so many other kids who are also too afraid to speak up,” the mother said. “I think there’s a much deeper cause to all this, and CPS needs to make changes to address it.”
Steinmiller and CPS spokespeople did not comment on the video or the student’s experience being bullied.
“I want to remind our community that bullying and hate speech of any kind violates our core values and will not be tolerated,” Steinmiller wrote in the letter to parents. “I also encourage you to take this opportunity to speak to your child about the importance of using the internet and social media responsibly.”
The school’s counseling team will be on hand to support students with fears or concerns about the video, Steinmiller said.
“Our staff is committed to creating a learning environment that is safe, positive and welcoming for all students,” Steinmiller said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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