People are outraged after footage emerged of students from an elite Adelaide private school seemingly lynching a Black baby doll with their school hat cords, but experts say the “racist” behaviour is nothing new for Australian private education.
Trinity College students were given white and Black baby dolls for a child studies assignment. Only a Black baby doll can be seen hanging in the video that the students later uploaded to social media. Twitter account African AU was the first public account to post the video.
#BREAKING – African Australian was today advised that Trinity College in Adelaide has allegedly accused a distressed student (of African heritage) of bullying after making a complaint about the black baby doll lynching video posted online by students from the same school. 1/ pic.twitter.com/ogKnLxNGIP
— African Australian (@AfricanAU) February 25, 2021
Nick Hately, the headmaster of Trinity College confirmed the video’s validity with a statement letter to HuffPost Australia.
“Students involved in the initial incident wanted to reiterate that they did not act with racist intent,” he said. “Some further acknowledge that now, with greater education, they understand why their actions are considered racist. They understand how appalling, unthinking behaviour stemming from ignorance can be racism. Not having a racist intent does not mean the impact is not racist.”
The Adelaide Advertiser reports seven students were given some form of suspension after the incident last week. A white doll was also mistreated.
An African-Australian Grade 12 student complained about the video to the student leadership committee and created a change.org petition calling for “a safe space for minorities at Trinity College”. The petition has since garnered 2,500 signatures and is growing.
Jesus, a black doll is lynched and a school says “it was not racially motivated”. Would your kid be safe amongst attitudes like that from staff and students alike?Give this story your attention. Petition below. https://t.co/x9hJEeo2UIhttps://t.co/PI5Zx5zDYz
— Benjamin Law 羅旭能 (@mrbenjaminlaw) February 25, 2021
The student, who requested anonymity, told HuffPost the petition earned her a bullying warning from the school because some peers said it would “embarrass” the school.
“The school dismissed it and said the girls who posted the video were being just being ‘silly,’” the student told HuffPost via phone.
The student and two other African Australian students, including the school captain, have walked away from their student leadership positions in protest.
The student added: “I felt betrayed. I have been complaining about racist incidents for four years at the school.”
Trinity College said in its statement: ”We support all students and their activism and any suggestion that we have tried to silence students is inaccurate.”
Renee Romeo, a former youth worker in Adelaide, said racist actions, unknowingly or not, are common in schools.
“This isn’t just Trinity College,” she told HuffPost. “There is a culture of racism running rampant in these schools.”
HuffPost understands the school plans to address the concerns with cultural training and urged the three Black students to stay in their leadership roles to “raise awareness”.
“We always have to be the ones to ‘raise awareness’. I feel terrible that I have to keep fighting for it,” one student said.
The school doesn’t have many students from South Sudanese heritage and is now working to hire a South-Sudanese liaison officer. Trinity College has since met with students to discuss how to moves forward.
Romeo said cultural and diversity training isn’t enough.
“The training is inadequate when things like this happen. It continues the same narrative that we have to understand other cultures, which causes othering and informs stereotypes about these cultures that already exist,” she said.
“Structural change is needed.”
A 2019 study by the Australian National University cited one-third of the 4,600 government primary and secondary students surveyed have experienced racial discrimination from their peers.
Twitter users on Friday expressed outrage over the video.
First Nations actor, Tyson Towney wrote: “Sounds like a straight up racist school.”
Sounds like a straight up racist school.
— Tysan Towney (@tysantowney) February 25, 2021
I won’t repost the video of the mock lynching of a black baby at Trinity College but I will say that punishing the victims of racism for getting angry about racist violence and protecting the perpetrators of that violence is how schools produce the kind of men who run Australia.
— Sisonke Msimang (@Sisonkemsimang) February 25, 2021
On African Australian’s Instagram account one user, panda_pablo69 commented, “That’s not surprising, I experienced racial slurs when I used to play footy against Trinity College.”
More expressed outrage by calling on others to reshare the online petition.
Lawyer and human rights activist Nyadol Nyuon commended the Black students who spoke out, but told HuffPost more education is needed.
“I am really proud of them. Schools need to take this [racism] seriously,” she said.
“While lynching a Black baby may be ‘silly’ for white students, for Black students it is a symbol of historical injustice.”
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