Stoking Racial Animosity For Clicks

Peace sells ... but who's buying?

Our vaunted Fourth Estate seems hell-bent on making race relations in the United States worse, not better. It’s as if they believe conflict, misery, and anger are good for business.

Consider, for example, the news coverage this weekend of what has every indication of being a Mississippi high school’s innocent screw-up.

A school administrator incorrectly awarded valedictorian and salutatorian to the wrong students. The mistake was brought to the school’s attention after the parents of the two students who should have won protested. The administrator, they noted, had incorrectly calculated the criteria used for determining the winners.

As a compromise, the school, which admitted error, decided to split the baby, announcing this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian will be shared between the initial recipients and the two students who actually earned the honors.

If we’re being honest, this is a boring story, unworthy of national news status — a story of confusion, compromise, and clerical errors by an employee of a school you’ve never heard of.

Except that the two students who were initially wrongly awarded valedictorian and salutatorian are black. The two students who will now share the honor with them are white.

This is enough for our very responsible and dispassionate press to allege there is something deeply racist about the entire affair. It is somehow a problem that white parents correctly pointed out that the school had incorrectly awarded the wrong students.

I’m not kidding when I say this is how the story is being framed by the press.

Here is the New York Times’s headline, “Two Black Students Won School Honors. Then Came the Calls for a Recount.” Its subhead reads, “After two white families claimed a grade calculation error, a Mississippi school added their children as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian, reviving questions about race and equity.”

If you didn’t know better, you’d think from the New York Times’s framing of the matter that racism is alive and well at West Point High School. It’s not until the 19th paragraph of the story that the paper informs the reader:

At issue was just how to calculate who the top two students were. [The black students] won based on a calculation of quality point average or Q.P.A., a system of calculating grades that gave extra weight to advanced placement and dual credit courses. But, it turned out, [the white students] were the top two finishers based on unweighted grade point average.

The parents of the two white students held discussions with Burnell McDonald, the superintendent of West Point schools. They complained that based on the West Point High School Student Handbook, the school had not followed its own rules in calculating class rank.

After talking with the white parents, Mr. McDonald, who is Black, concluded that the handbook and tradition backed them up: In the school system, class rank has been calculated by unweighted grade point average, not Q.P.A., which would have made the two white students the honorees.

Now, wait. Should the parents of the top-level white students have simply let their children miss out on honors they had earned, just because the initial error had favored two high-scoring black students?

Elsewhere, Insider reported the incident with an even more misleading headline, which reads, “A Mississippi high school agreed to make 2 white students co-winners of top honors after their parents complained about the awarding of prizes to Black pupils.”

“West Point High School students Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple, who are both Black, were named valedictorian and salutatorian of their class during a senior awards ceremony last week,” it reports.

It adds, “However, the announcement didn’t sit well with some families, and shortly after, the white parents of two students ended up raising complaints to the school that it did not properly calculate the criteria to determine the two designations.”

“Didn’t sit well with some families” gives the distinct impression white parents were upset black students had won the titles when, in reality, the parents protested that their own children were robbed of plaudits they had won fair and square. And the school agrees!

Lastly, this is how MSNBC reports the story: “Two Black students were forced to share high honors after white parents cried error.”

It adds, “Black students in West Point, Miss. were named valedictorian and salutatorian this year. The parents of 2 white students refused to accept that, ultimately resulting in 4 honorees.”

Again, the school screwed up, by its own admission. The parents “refused to accept” an error. Yet, the press are characterizing the story as one in which white people protested black achievements, robbing black students of hard-won recognition by forcing them to share their titles with white students. This simply isn’t what happened.

Surely, our media aren’t actually trying to foment racial enmity. Then again, if they were, how would they be acting differently?

T. Becket Adams

T. Becket Adams
Senior commentary Washington Examiner. Former “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” contributor. Bylines in RealClearPolitics, Business Insider, 

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal

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Joe C
Joe C
1 month ago

This was an honest mistake. The proper honor should go to the proper people. Their honors were earned.