WJLA-TV (Washington, D.C.), November 11, 2008
Gloria Alfonzo [of Prince George’s Community College] says she endured racial taunts and slurs because she supported John McCain’s presidential campaign.
Her problems, she said, began with an assignment to write about the merits of Barack Obama. When she announced she differed with Obama, Alfonzo says her African-American classmates subjected her to an onslaught of racial hatred.
Alfonzo said all of her classmates—except for herself and one other—were black, as was the instructor, Ayanna Watson. She says the teacher demanded to know whether she is a Republican.
Alfonzo maintains her answer drove her fellow students into a racially-charged rage.
“They got up from their chairs they started pointing at me and, um, saying, ‘You are a daughter of a,’ you know, ‘[expletive deleted]’ and ‘[expletive deleted] white girl,’” she said.
Chris Monroe was in the same class.
“I have never seen so much hate for one person,” he recalled.
Monroe agrees with Alfonzo that the teacher never came to her defense. He found the vicious taunts deeply troubling.
He recalled some of the things he remembers them saying: “[Expletive deleted} white whore,’ all that. ‘Traitor [expletive deleted], all kinds of stuff.”
ABC 7/NewsChannel 8 reporter Stephen Tschida stopped by the teacher’s home. There was no answer at the door, but her politics were proudly displayed: a large Obama sign on her front door.
After the incident, Alfonzo went to her college adviser, who agreed she should withdraw.
Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.
She noticed that fellow students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching “inclusion,” and she decided to see how included she could be.
So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:
“I was just really curious how they’d react to something that different, because a lot of people at my school wore Obama shirts and they are big Obama supporters,” Catherine told us. “I just really wanted to see what their reaction would be.”
“People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn’t be wearing it,” Catherine said.
Then it got worse.
“One person told me to go die. It was a lot of dying. A lot of comments about how I should be killed,” Catherine said, of the tolerance in Oak Park.
“In one class, I had one teacher say she will not judge me for my choice, but that she was surprised that I supported McCain,” Catherine said.
One student suggested that she be put up on a cross for her political beliefs.
“He said, ‘You should be crucifixed.’ It was kind of funny because, I was like, don’t you mean ‘crucified?’ ” Catherine said.
Other entries in her notebook involved suggestions by classmates that she be “burned with her shirt on” for “being a filthy-rich Republican.”
Some said that because she supported McCain, by extension she supported a plan by deranged skinheads to kill Obama before the election. And I thought such politicized logic was confined to American newsrooms. Yet Catherine refused to argue with her peers. She didn’t want to jeopardize her experiment.
Only a few times did anyone say anything remotely positive about her McCain shirt. One girl pulled her aside in a corner, out of earshot of other students, and whispered, “I really like your shirt.”
That’s when you know America is truly supportive of diversity of opinion, when children must whisper for fear of being ostracized, heckled and crucifixed.
The next day, in part 2 of The Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment, she wore another T-shirt, this one with “Obama Girl” written in blue. And an amazing thing happened.
Catherine wasn’t very stupid anymore. She grew brains.
“People liked my shirt. They said things like my brain had come back, and I had put the right shirt on today,” Catherine said.
But she sure did, and she turned her journal into a report for her history teacher, earning Catherine extra credit. We asked the teacher, Norma Cassin-Pountney, whether it was ironic that Catherine would be subject to such intolerance from pro-Obama supporters in a community that prides itself on its liberal outlook.