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Baraboo Nazi salute photo

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On November 11 and 12, 2018, a photograph of a group of Baraboo High School boys, many with their arms raised in what what looks like the Nazi salute, went viral on social media. The photo shows about fifty students, standing on a flight of exterior stone steps as they give the salute.

The photographer and one student deny there was any political intent or that insult was intended, describing it as innocuous gesture.[1][2] Another student in the photo, who did not raise his hand, stated that he recognized instantly that his peers were making a Nazi salute.

One of the boys in the photograph, who did not raise his hand, later described experiencing years of racist comments at the school and another, who also did not raise his hand, described enduring years of bullying that went unaddressed by the school administration.

Several meetings have been held or scheduled to address the incident. The controversy broke at a time when, nationwide, hate speech and nationalism are rising, two weeks after eleven Jews were killed in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and two years after Baraboo school district had reported a steep increase in racial harassment complaints.

History[edit]

On November 11, 2018, a group photograph of about sixty male Baraboo High School students, many giving what looks like a Nazi salute, was shared on social media, and by the next morning it was viral on Twitter.[3] The photo, which had been taken six months earlier before the junior prom, was condemned by the Auschwitz Memorial,[4] State Senator Jon Erpenbach, and Wisconsin Governor-elect Tony Evers,[5][6] and it attracted international media attention.[7] Baraboo School District Administrator Lori M. Mueller issued a statement that said in part, "The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address."[8]

Bullying[edit]

The only black student in the photo, who did not salute, says he has heard racist comments for years at the school. "People are making jokes all the time. Like, throughout middle school, people slinging the 'N-word' with the hard 'r'."[9] Another student in the photo, who did not salute, said on Twitter, "I knew what my morals were, and it was not to salute something I firmly didn't believe in. ... These classmates have bullied me since entering middle school. ... Nothing has been done, and my question is wi(ll) anything ever be done?"[10]

The salute[edit]

The photographer is quoted as saying he told the students to give the "hi" sign.[11] A student in the front row, Jason Ramos, who did not salute, confirms this and supports another student who says that none of the boys knew what "high sign" meant. Ramos recognized instantly that his peers were making a Nazi salute. Both of these students are sure most of the boys in the photo are not racist and did not mean to make a Nazi salute. He said he believes one student thought it would be funny to give the salute, "One hand shot up and then everyone else went with, so it was kind of like 'monkey see, monkey do.'"[12]

The community's response[edit]

In a rally on the steps of the Sauk County Courthouse (where the photo was taken) on November 12 (the day the image was going viral) young local businesspeople and BHS students chanted "Love, not hate".[13] There was a large gathering of community members in the Baraboo Civic Center on November 15 to talk about healing and how to create change.[14] On November 16, Milwaukee's Rufus King High School, which includes Jewish and Muslim students, posted a picture of 50 students and about 15 staff giving the American Sign Language sign for "I love you" as well as hand signs for peace and hearts.[15]

On November 19, the first in a three-step program of community meetings called Baraboo Gathers was held by the Baraboo School District, city leaders and community members. Between two and three hundred attended, including some students who were in the photo. School District Administrator Mueller "acknowledged bullying is a problem in most school districts, including Baraboo, and said leaders are committed to doing better", and she called for restorative practices. "While the photo 'as alleged' is an issue of free speech, she said the students involved need to repair the damage they’ve done." The second meeting in the series is scheduled for November 29. At that meeting the audience will be invited to comment. [16][17]

Historical context[edit]

The photo went viral just two weeks after eleven Jews were killed and seven wounded in an antisemitic mass shooting at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, at a time when nationalist and hate speech were rising in the United States,[18] and two years after the Baraboo school district had reported a steep increase in racial harassment complaints.[19]

References[edit]

  1. "Wisconsin student who refused to participate in apparent Nazi salute speaks out". CBS NEWS. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  2. "Interview: Student in Baraboo photo speaks out". Fox47. Retrieved 2018-11-26.
  3. "Parents address school board as Nazi salutes in Baraboo High School prom photo spark outrage online". Baraboo News Republic. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  4. "Wisconsin school district investigates photo of boys giving Nazi salute". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  5. "The Latest: Wisconsinites Rally for Love After Nazi Photo". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  6. "Wisconsin district investigates boys' apparent Nazi salute". WBAY. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  7. Endres, Susan. "Baraboo student in viral photo says he was 'shocked and confused' as classmates made Nazi salute, blames imitation". Baraboo News Republic. Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  8. "Community distressed, divided after photo of Baraboo boys' alleged Nazi salute goes viral". NBC News 15. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  9. "Black Baraboo student says he's worn headphones to drown out N-word at school". WISN. 2018-11-14. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  10. "School launches investigation after prom picture of students appearing to perform Nazi salute goes viral". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  11. ""Baraboo Gathers:" Community gathers to heal after photo controversy". NBC News 15. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  12. Endres, Susan. "Baraboo student in viral photo says he was 'shocked and confused' as classmates made Nazi salute, blames imitation". Baraboo News Republic. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  13. "People chant 'love, not hate' at Baraboo rally". MSN. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  14. "'We need to pause and reflect': Baraboo community looking for change after Nazi salute photo". CBS 58. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  15. "In response to Nazi salute photo from Baraboo, one Milwaukee high school wants to spread a message of love". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  16. Endres, Susan. "Baraboo leaders take defensive, apologetic tone over controversial photo". Baraboo News Republic. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  17. ""Baraboo Gathers:" Community gathers to heal after photo controversy". NBC News 15. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  18. "Male students at an (almost) all-white high school gave a Nazi salute. Now officials want to figure out why". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  19. "Before Nazi salute picture, Baraboo schools saw a rise in racial complaints". Post-Crescent Media. Retrieved 2018-11-24.


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