Covington Catholic – It could have been me.

Promoted by Rosi, who sees that Trump’s been tweeting; this is all ‘Fake News’ to him, he blames the ‘evil’ media. As for Nick Sandmann, the MAGA-hat smirking 11th-grader (left, photo above), he has retained a PR firm co-founded by Republican operative Scott Jennings, an adviser to Mitch McConnell.  And as for Nick’s school, Covington Catholic HS, well it seems this isn’t their first racist incident. Video & photos surfaced of a 2011 basketball game where Covington Catholic students shows up in blackface and taunted black players of the other team. With right-wingers now in control of the school’s and boys’ messaging, both the video of the blackface game and the school’s own website are both down entirely. Below, Jim Keady recounts his own history of some of Sandmann’s brand of smugness.  

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Some have criticized me and others for being quick to judgment and that the initial videos that surfaced did not tell the whole story about what happened with the young men from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. After watching multiple videos, of multiple lengths, from multiple angles – my judgment on the actions of the young men stands. They were wrong. They attempted to intimidate a Native American elder who was doing his best to diffuse what he felt was a potentially volatile situation. Please note that I say I am condemning the actions of the young men, I am not condemning them as human beings, we all have inherent dignity and we all make mistakes. I hope with reflection and pastoral counseling, these young men will learn and grow from this experience.

Why did I feel confident to make the assessment that I did when I saw those first videos and why do I stand by it today?

Because it could have been me.

I know that look. I know that posturing. I know that smug sense of entitlement that comes from thinking you are better than others as an individual and as an institution. I know the power of that entitled mob because I have been there.

In my life, I have been guilty of perpetuating this culture. Take a look at the photos I shared here. That smug look on the face of the young man from Covington Catholic, yes, I know that smug look all too well. I know the smug look of young men, who deep down are hurt little boys, because I have lived it. I helped to perpetuate this culture at times, as a high school student, as a fraternity brother, as an athlete. I am not proud of this. At times, I am deeply ashamed, but being honest about it is the only path towards healing. We men who have walked this path, who have faced our past actions, who have dug deep to heal our wounds – we need to own this past/present reality. We need to seek to make amends for specific transgressions when it will not cause more pain to those we may have hurt. We need to stand up and speak out when we see this kind of behavior. And, we need to lead by example and do better.

I hope that by sharing this it may help those who are attempting to justify the behavior of these young men see it in a new light. It is part of a system of of toxic masculinity that must be confronted with love and those of us men who have been there and are now awakened to the pain it causes and the pain we caused, must be on the front lines of this fight.

The reason I was compelled to write this today was because of the commentary below that was shared with me this morning by a friend. It is from a Pastor who served in the Covington Catholic area, a former soccer referee who had personal experiences with this school. I ask that you read it and share it. I ask that you share this full post if you think it can help people understand. I ask that you share it with love and with the hope that by shining a light on these things, we can help heal these wounds and stop hurt people from hurting people.
Peace, JWK


PASTOR MARSHALL JOLLY ON COVINGTON CATHOLIC CULTURE:
I’ve seen a lot of chatter about the disgraceful incident involving students from Covington Catholic High School and an Indigenous American and Veteran in Washington, DC this weekend. This morning, as news of the “full video” began to break, people started hedging, saying that there were “multiple perspectives.” Here’s my perspective.

I served an Episcopal parish in Northern Kentucky, approximately 15 minutes from Covington Catholic High School. It’s a prestigious all-male school with a reputation for strong academics and strong athletics. You can learn that much from the website.

What you won’t learn from the website is that there is a sinister pattern of similar behavior within the Diocese. While the Bishop there concerns himself with bizarre pronouncements (such as admonishing the faithful not to hold hands during the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer) and quashing “unorthodox hymns” that are otherwise approved for use in the Catholic church, he also has created a culture that is not only anti-LGBT, but also actively seeking out teachers and other administrators who might even hold sympathetic views toward people who are LGBT.

As a (retired) soccer referee, I dreaded officiating matches where Covington Catholic was involved. The fans were always among the rudest, most disrespectful, and mean-spirited that I’ve encountered–and I’ve refereed for a long time at almost every level of the game! Student after student has come forward over the years to try and shed light on the abuses that not just LGBT students faced, but students of color. Racial epithets and slurs were commonplace in the halls.

My point is that what we’re seeing on the (many) videos circulating should not come as a shock. It is a continuation of a long and disgusting pattern of toxicity and abuse that has been allowed and even encouraged at all levels of the school and, as far as I can tell, from the diocese.

While we might be concerning ourselves with “who moved first” or “who moved toward whom” in the video, I encourage you to reflect on this: notice the posture and demeanor of the young man. There is a troubling display of xenophobia embedded here. It’s the kind that says that white bodies (read: white, cis, straight, male bodies) can be anywhere they choose at any time, but that non-white bodies (read: non-cis, straight, male bodies) must first seek permission to exist outside of their “place.” This is a window into a perverse system that thrives on toxic, fragile masculinity embedded with xenophobia. And it’s not pretty. Let those who have ears to hear, listen.

Comments (2)

  1. Helen Duda

    Thank you Rosi for this very important article, that everyone should read! Than you, Jim Keady for your honesty, and incite!
    Thank you Pastor Marshall Jolly, for speaking truth.
    I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, and left after the very last straw for me: the parish priest stood on the altar and called everyone who had accused priests of sexual abuse liars. There is very much wrong with the Catholic Church.

    Reply
  2. Josanna Monik Savoie

    Even though I was raised Catholic, I see no reason why any parent would send their children to a Catholic school. The religion is oppressive to women, and anybody who is different from the norm.

    Reply

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