The investigators hired by the Covington Diocese in Kentucky cleared a group of high school students of racism when they confronted a Native-American man in Washington, D.C., last month. The lesson the Covington Catholic High School students learned is that there are no consequences for their racist behavior.
The Roman Catholic bishop of Covington released an investigative report on Wednesday that said the students didn’t instigate the encounter that was captured on video and went viral, the New York Times reported.
“Our students were placed in a situation that was at once bizarre and even threatening,” Bishop Roger J. Foys stated. “Their reaction to the situation was, given the circumstances, expected and one might even say laudatory.”
During the Indigenous People’s March on Jan. 18, images of the students went viral for antagonizing an elderly Native American man named Nathan Phillips. The teens, most of them wearing MAGA hats, were shown gathering around Phillips like a mob, mocking his religious chants and yelling at him. One of the students, Nick Sandmann, was singled out because of the disrespectful smirk on his face during a standoff with Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial.
The teens were widely condemned after the incident—including from Bishop Foys who later apologized for rushing to judgment. A public relations firm hired to quiet the storm went on a media blitz to claim that the students were the victims of racism from a group of Black Hebrew Israelites.
The diocese hired Greater Cincinnati Investigation. After spending about 240 hours—basically obtaining a version of the incident from the students and their chaperones—the company concluded that the teens did nothing wrong. Investigators claimed that they tried but failed to speak with Phillips about exactly what happened.
There was “no evidence of offensive or racist statements by students to Mr. Phillips or members of his group,” according to the report. The report also downplayed the teenagers doing the “tomahawk chop” by saying that the boys joined Phillips’ chanting.
It appears that instead of turning this into a teachable moment, the students’ teachers and religious leaders condoned their actions. Years from now, this could become a case study in how white privilege was reinforced at an elite school to mold racist future leaders in business, government and the criminal justice system.