Why Were the Covington Catholic Boys Pitted Against the Black Israelites at their DC Rally in the First Place?

Last weekend, a mob of Catholic high school students wearing MAGA hats clashed with a group of Black Israelites at the Lincoln Memorial. As the confrontation became uglier and more dangerous, a Native elder attending an Indigenous Rights rally stepped in between the two groups, facing the teenagers, and started drumming and singing a prayer for peace. He succeeded in drawing the fire of the teenagers, whereupon they encircled him and proceeded to taunt him, instead.

The Black Israelites are a nutso quasi-Christian alien abduction cult, who have been classified as a Hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and are in no way “Black Muslims” as the ignorant racist southern Catholic school and community have been portraying them. They were demonstrating some crazy point in DC, which is permitted under US Freedom of Speech and Rights of Assembly laws.

My opinion is, and has long been, that Hate groups, like Neo Nazi organizations, White Supremacists, anti-Semites, misogynist/religious Hate groups such as the anti-Abortionist demonstrators the boys had been in DC to join the ranks of, the KKK, and cults embodying certifiably insane, demonstrable Hate doctrines like this one, should not be issued permits to march or demonstrate or otherwise promulgate Hate. I don’t believe that an activity classified and prosecuted as a crime should be protected under another, antiquated and unexamined tenet of the law, such as the current Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion and Religious Expression statutes.

Obviously, the Founders weren’t grappling with the genocidal tendencies of their own Judeo-Christian legacy in the New World, let alone of cults like this one. The Constitution and Amendments to the Constitution seriously need a feminist, non-White, secular critique, perhaps to be rendered by the current wave of diverse, feminist, multi-cultural new representatives in Congress and other up-and-coming enlightened jurists.

That said, the Black Israelites did, against all good sense and reason, have the right to demonstrate according to current law in the U.S., the enormous (100-strong) group of young White males wearing MAGA hats being inadequately and ignorantly supervised did get into the demonstrators’ legally permitted space, and did get into their faces in a confrontational way. The hopeless school group so-called supervisors did give permission for the boys to perform the aggressively sacred Maori Haka warrior dance, facsimiles of which are performed in massive acts of grotesque cultural appropriation (if not performed by or with the express permission of Maori dancers or Elders) at stupid American sports events, and the boys did then proceeded to mock, taunt, and otherwise behave in a way profoundly disgusting for any youth group, never mind a Church one. There has justifiably been much discussion of the events on social media, some of it very enlightened, like this Facebook post:

Many conservatives really want to protect these privileged White boys, who obviously felt really safe and confident and frankly don’t need the support, except to become more moral and sound, which support, if it were to happen, would necessarily include firm checking, redirection and censure of these behavioural patterns being displayed. (And that adult, grinning in the background, needs to be fired. He shouldn’t be permitted within a hundred feet of children — boys OR girls.) Those who fly to the Covington Catholic High School boys’ defence don’t comprehend the incredibly toxic masculinity, racist/sexist/religious intolerance and bigotry indoctrination, or anti-immigrant prejudice markers, which are obvious to most of us in the MAGA hats, the “Build the Wall” chants, the appropriated Haka dance travesty, the war whoops and other mockeries of Indigenous Peoples in THEIR OWN, Native, un-ceded homeland.

Defenders don’t recognize the youths’ conditioned religious superiority, their unjustifiably confident cat calls and harassment of passing women and girls, their loudly proclaimed Trump-type rape jokes for an audience, etc. etc. They don’t see, nor realize, that the complex of behaviours on display represents THE White Male colonizing power dynamic in its nascent state. If the defenders going to bat for the masculine flowering of Covington youth are White men, they are perhaps too sympathetic to boys who remind them of themselves when young, and likely don’t recognize their own buried and incipient, current or historic White male elitism. If women, they are likely male-identified or male-supremacist, religiously or other patriarchally indoctrinated, with a dose of internalized misogyny for their pains. They are perhaps, themselves, mothers who have helplessly, haplessly, raised, or are raising, male monsters.

The Native American Elder, Nathan Phillips, is a veteran, youth educator and activist, trained in non-violence. He did step between the two groups, expressly facing the youth group swiftly turning into a mob in ways profoundly damaging to their collective soul, intentionally to draw their fire; he did sing his prayer of peace to them in an attempt to diffuse what was becoming dangerously ugly, at which point the youth’s callow misbehaviour did then land solely upon him — for about half an hour of ridicule, disrespect, scornful mimicry and abuse.

Father Frank Pavone is the idiot who sent off the students to DC, in their offensive hats, to protest women’s Reproductive Rights. He’s the unprincipled principal of the Covington school. Here is a photo of Father Pavone at a Reproductive Rights rally in NYC in 1993, taken by photographer and activist, Dona Ann McAdams:

Photograph by Dona Ann McAdams, 1993.

Apparently he has sported his assumption of entitlement to stomp all over others’ legal and human rights for decades, since his own privileged youth. He’s at least part of the reason why the school has produced one accused violent rapist (in court right now, at 7' tall and 300 lbs.); Jacob Walter is currently being held in the Boone County Jail on one charge of rape and two of sodomy after deputies said he repeatedly assaulted and choked an 18-year-old victim, ignoring her pleas to stop. Walter’s mugshot wears a delusional expression of vested superiority and resentment, very like the expressions on some of the boys’s faces on the video. “Walter dismissed the victim by laughing at her and telling her that she would be fine,” Sgt. Philip Ridgell wrote in a news release about the allegations. Something is very wrong here.

Jacob Walter is currently being held in the Boone County Jail on one charge of rape and two of sodomy.

This is apparently not an unusual attitude at Covington Catholic High. The school apparently produces multiple phenomena like the accused and his sexual violence. The gang of boys were caught on video laughing at the rape jokes their gang-leader pronounced to his appreciative Covington Catholic audience at the Lincoln Memorial the same day as the run-in with the Black Israelites and the Elder abuse that followed (“It’s not rape if you enjoy it.” Haha!). They were also caught on video harassing passing women and girls, uploaded to Twitter yesterday by Amee Vanderpool.

The archdiocese and the other school administrators will have to answer also — most infamously, perhaps, for the former Covington student on the sex offenders’ list, currently in court facing violent assault and aggravated rape charges, but also for these lesser forms of verbal assault and abusive behaviour. As the narrative veers back and forth among the blame-setting options, there is one group and one group only who are actually, legally and morally responsible — or meant to be. And that would be the adults — parents, supervisors, religious Elders, clergy and educators, in charge of these young males — the adults ‘on the (Capitol) Hill, literally and figuratively.

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Yvonne Owens, PhD

I'm a writer/researcher/arts educator on Vancouver Island and all round global citizen who loves humans even though we're such a phenomenal pain-in-the-ass.