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One of the Arizona teenagers who donned the “R” in a viral photo of her friends spelling out the “n-word” last week has made a plea for forgiveness, insisting she isn’t racist for taking part in the act.

Rachel Steigerwald apologized on Monday during a civil rights rally outside Desert Vista High School. Steigerwald and five other teens decided not to take part in a senior class photo that spelled out “BEST*YOU’VE*EVER*SEEN*CLASS*OF*2016” on their shirts, and opted instead to spell out “n*gger,” with two of the teens acting as asterisks. The photo was first captured on Snapchat and later found its way to Instagram and Twitter.

Steigerwald issued the apology to over 50 protesters.

Via the NY Daily News:

“I have come here to say that I know people have been offended by what I did, and I’ve come here to say I am incredibly, incredibly sorry,” she said. “I have love for everyone in my heart. I am not a racist, and I am asking everyone for forgiveness.”

The teens claim the act was intended to be a joke for one of the girls’ boyfriends, who is Black. Toni Davis, a Black DVHS student, said she texted one of her friends, “So, are you racist now?,” after seeing her in the photo, AZ Central reports:

“She apologized and said, ‘It was a joke that went bad; I should never have done that.’ And I agreed with her; I thought that was dumb,” Davis said.

“I don’t think you should ever use an excuse to say a racial slur ever,” Davis said about the justification.

Principal Christine Barela has asked the students to stay home until an investigation into their actions is complete.

An online petition at Change.org has demanded that the six girls be expelled rather than suspended. The petition has gained over 40,000 signatures. Over the weekend, students from DVHS posted positive images representing their school:

Over 3,000 students also took part in group discussions, as well as a sensitivity workshop called Challenge Day, limited to 100 students.

Black senior and basketball player Tatum Brimley said White students have become more cautious around those of color. “Most of the time we’re ‘accepted’ … And we have a close-knit family in our sport. But there are some times it feels a little bit like… the kids at this school are really privileged,” Brimley said.

SOURCE: NY Daily News, AZ Central | PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter

SEE ALSO:

Arizona Teens Suspended For Spelling Out Racial Slur In Viral Photo

POLICE: Man Dropped Off KKK Robe At Black-Owned Consignment Store

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