A North Carolina high school was left baffled by a controversial photo that made its rounds on social media.
Students at Piedmont High School sparked outrage after sharing a photo of a water fountain with the a sign on it that read “WHITE” to Snapchat. The image to many was too similar to “whites only” signs used to reinforce segregation in public facilities in the South during America’s Jim Crow era.
“I can only imagine how many people saw it because all of these kids are so interconnected on social media, especially on Snapchat in that age group, so everybody in the school knows about what’s going on,” a former student told WSOC-TV news station.
With no real means to ascertain how many students shared the photo, or simply saw it, the school’s Principal Dylan Stamey addressed the situation head-on. In a letter addressed to parents on Sept. 21 — which cannot be found on the school or district websites — Stamey claimed the incident was looked into and provided a explanation of sorts regarding the sign being at the school to begin with.
“During practice, a cheer sign was left just outside the gym on the floor, and it was picked up and placed on a water fountain. We have investigated this matter and concluded that the placement was not intentional,” he said.
No other details on how the cheer squad utilized the sign, nor why a student opted to place it on the fountain were offered, by Stamey, but Union County Public Schools spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte told the Charlotte Observer this week “the school colors are blue and white. The sign in question is one of the cheer signs that’s used at athletic activities.”
Those pat explanations, coupled with the current racial climate of society online, made it easy for people on social media to argue the sign was placed on the water fountain with ill intent.
“STUPIDITY AT ITS FINEST,” wrote a person on Facebook.
“It’s very hard to believe the action of this individual (s) was unintentional! Please miss me with that one!!!”
“These kids nowadays are the product of some parents practicing racism in the home. I don’t care how many “black” friends you have at work. Racism still exists!”
Another person scrutinized the school’s investigation process, demanding proof of what really occurred be shared for the public to draw their own conclusion.
“Release the so called investigation records! Stuff is swept under the rug all the time to cover for people and avoid looking bad. It’s easy to change or cover little details to make it sound unintentional.”
Another person believing the sign was not created in malice offered their own thoughts on why a sign labeled “white” would even be at the school.
“It’s from the cheerleaders…from the football game. The school colors are red, white and blue.”
According to the Census Bureau, the city of Monroe — where the school is located — has a population of roughly 35,000 people; white people make up 66 percent of the population, while African-Americans account for at least 25 percent.