In the aftermath of racist graffiti showing up on the spirit rock outside South Pointe High School, a group of students fought back Monday afternoon with a new message of inclusion.
Early Sunday, a South Pointe custodian spotted a racist message spray-painted on one side of the rock, Principal Al Leonard said.
By 9 a.m., the offensive language had been covered, but not before a passer-by snapped a picture, which circulated widely among students, their parents and the community.
The graffiti – which read “Happy (n-word) month KKK” – is an apparent reference to February’s being celebrated as Black History Month.
There are surveillance cameras on that part of the school’s property, and the school’s resource officer is investigating, Leonard said. The vandalism occurred sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
South Pointe students are hurt and confused, Leonard said; for many, this is their first real encounter with racism.
Under the guidance of art teacher Ashley Beard, three Advanced Placement art students decided to take the side of the rock bearing the ugly message and turn it into one that reflected the attitude they hope South Pointe students have about race or any other differences between people.
“We decided to come out here and paint over the rock with a happier and friendlier message,” said senior Madison Wightman, who credited junior student Jamie Rankin with coming up with the new message: “We are all =.”
Senior Quinton Cole said he hopes people get the message that South Pointe is “intolerant of intolerance.”
“This is an opportunity for a ‘teachable moment,’ ” Leonard said in an email to faculty and staff Monday.
While racism still exists, Leonard said, he wants students to know that how they react is what defines them.
“We’re not going to let those people dictate how we react,” Leonard said of the vandals.
He said South Pointe has several student clubs, such as PROGENY, that promote diversity and inclusion. “We will not allow the action of this individual or these individuals to distract us from the goals of that organization or the goals of our school,” Leonard said in his email.
Senior Andrew Swiger said actions such as the vandalism on the rock won’t stop progress.
“For every step backward, there should be two steps forward,” he said.