Racist and threatening messages sent to black students at a Minnesota high school last week sparked a mass walkout at the school that was picked up by local and national media. The students walked out to protest what they said was the school administration’s lack of attention to racial issues.
Even though a great many of these alleged hate crimes turn out to be hoaxes, credulous reporters and news outlets amplified a racial grievance narrative on social media before the case was fully investigated.
“Hope you and your people will die like George.” Wow !
Someone created an Instagram page targeting Black students at White Bear Lake HS in Minnesota.
— Lorenzo Hall (@LorenzoHall) April 9, 2021
Students at White Bear Lake High School held a walkout this morning. They’re bringing attention to an Instagram group chat that directed racial slurs at students of color. pic.twitter.com/cEGDgiATNM
— John Lauritsen (@JDLauritsen) April 9, 2021
— Erin Maye Quade (@ErinMayeQuade) April 9, 2021
High school students in White Bear Lake walked out of class Friday after multiple Black students received racist threats through social media. https://t.co/ckYVFWRVg4
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) April 11, 2021
Our @isd624 White Bear Lake youth absolutely showed up today!
Our young leaders carry with them the promise of a better tomorrow for our community.
— Ryan Vernosh (@RyanVernosh) April 9, 2021
Dozens of White Bear Lake High School students walked out of class Friday to demand school leaders do more to address racist incidents.https://t.co/INa8ThDVqp
— MPR News (@MPRnews) April 9, 2021
“The threats originated from an anonymous Instagram account but screenshots posted online indicate the sender was a student who used the app’s group chat feature to target members of a school club for Black students,” the Associated Press reported. “The messages contained death threats and a racial slur.”
Dozens of students walked out of class to listen to speeches like this:
“The school needs to protect us. School is a place where we are supposed to be safe and learn,” said a student, speaking to the students who had had walked out. “Somebody really took time out of their day to send death threats to me and my beautiful friends just because we are a little darker than the rest of you all.”
The media displayed no skepticism whatsoever in its reporting on the unproven allegations.
Not everyone was impressed with the messaging at the protest, however, including this mixed race student: “They are telling my friends they need to hang themselves and us mixed people should have nothing to do with the white people,” she said. “They are saying we need to leave the school and they don’t want us here. It’s just gross to me.”
In a message to families, the school district said that they were working with the FBI and local law enforcement to find out who was behind the Instagram threats.
Tuesday night, the superintendent for White Bear Lake Area Schools announced that they had caught the culprit, and that the racist and threatening messages directed at black students were indeed “a hoax,” according to KSTP.
According to Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak, a student admitted to creating a fake Instagram account and sending messages to other students.
Kazmierczak said the student who sent the posts “poses no threat to our students of color,” and that officials “are working to learn more about the motives behind this action.”
The person behind the Instagram account wasn’t identified, but for the incident to have been determined a hoax, the perpetrator would likely have been a “student of color” himself.