Derogative social media posts created by local high school students have sparked a heated discussion about race relations in Turlock among students and community members alike.
The controversy came to light on Friday, when a Turlock High School student posted a picture to Instagram along with a caption which featured a racially-insensitive remark.
“Well, why can’t black people get a PHD??” the post read. “Because they can’t get passed (sic) their masters.”
Soon, other students and Instagram users began commenting on the post, calling out the student for the racist caption.
“This isn’t funny at all,” wrote one user. “You should think about what you say before you post it on social media.”
THS senior Jadyn Tubbs shared the Instagram post on Twitter, after the student’s account had been made private and the post’s caption changed. Tubbs’ tweet alleged that “changing captions and going private” did not change a thing, and the tweet has since amassed over 5,000 retweets and nearly 10,000 likes. Other social media users created similar tweets and Facebook posts, with the said-Instagram caption causing a firestorm of opinions.
“It takes someone that is pretty closed minded to make comments as such, and it takes a lot of nerve to post something like that on social media,” Tubbs told the Journal. “It’s hard seeing things like that, and makes you question what is wrong in some people’s heads to racially profile and make such hateful comments, not thinking about the consequences or damage their words can do.
“I will 100 percent of the time call someone out on things like this because no matter their age, they should be held accountable for their words.”
Other students at THS feel that the reaction to the Instagram caption may have been blown out of proportion, like senior Juan Lopez.
“The very first thing that went through my mind is, you know what, it’s just a girl. She did a little joke,” said Lopez. “To be honest, everyone jokes around, everyone says things but doesn’t take it seriously until they post it on social media.”
THS junior Marco Cabrera disagreed.
“They say it was a joke. I don’t think it was a joke,” he said. “I didn’t laugh. Not many people did because it just wasn’t funny.”
According to students interviewed after THS classes were excused on Monday, the Instagram incident is just one of several racially-charged incidents to occur on campus within the last few weeks. Screenshots from Snapchat provided to the Journal show racial slurs written in a school workbook and a picnic table vandalized with the letters “KKK” painted in white.
“It’s common at Turlock High,” said THS senior Damaia Blue. “This is only the second incident that’s been recognized, but it’s pretty normal.”
Blue stated that racist remarks have been made to her in class on several occasions, including an incident where a fellow student threatened to have her lynched. THS senior Leneah Washington said that there have been too many instances to count, but recalled a time when she and her friends were standing in the lunch line and overheard another student say, “It’s starting to look like Oakland here.”
“That was not a joke,” said Washington. “This is something that, personally, I deal with in my life. It’s not taken as a joke, and I don’t think it’s taken seriously at this school at all.”
Turlock Unified School District has remained proactive in combatting disturbing social media posts. The district launched a Digital Citizenship initiative in July, which focuses on teaching students how to navigate digital spaces in a responsible, appropriate manner. When the initiative was first introduced, Director of Student Services Gil Ogden spoke of the dangers that come with posting online.
“The hope is that they take away the understanding that what they do online does not go away, and they need to be careful with what the put on social media,” he said at the time. “What they do online which may seem okay might have significant consequences in the future.”
Following the racially-insensitive Instagram post on Friday, TUSD issued the following statement:
“Turlock Unified School District is committed to fostering an atmosphere that is characterized by mutual respect, tolerance, appreciation of diversity and a positive regard for the many different stakeholders who form our educational community. As stated in our TUSD Mission Statement, our goal is to ensure students graduate as ‘responsible citizens,’ a task we partner with our families and community to effect. As part of our commitment to inclusion and civic goals for our students, we will not tolerate any discriminatory behavior that violates this norm and will hold those responsible accountable for their actions.”
These incidents are just a few of several that have plagued Turlock recently, including the controversy surrounding white supremacist Nathan Damigo, who attends Stanislaus State, and a recent anti-hate initiative that was adopted by the Turlock City Council in response to alt-right stickers popping up on objects around town.