N-word Photo Prompts Protest at Arizona High School

Sheryl Estrada, Diversity Inc, January 27, 2016

Six girls at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix thought it would be a good idea on Friday to take a group photo with “N-I-*-*-E-R” spelled out in individual gold letters across their Black shirts and post it to social media.

What began Friday with hundreds of high school seniors coming together to take a yearbook photo wearing one-letter or one-symbol T-shirts that spelled out “BEST*YOU’VE*EVER*SEEN*CLASS*OF*2016” morphed into a racist incident when reportedly the girls decided to create the N-word as a joke for one of the girl’s boyfriends, who is Black. A student then posted the photo on Snapchat.

The offensive photo went viral Friday afternoon, even prompting a change.org petition calling for the principal to be fired and students expelled. As of Tuesday more than 40,000 people have signed the petition.

The photo outraged people across the country–but not Dr. Cicely Cobb, a former Desert Vista High School teacher.

“When I saw [the photo] I screamed in my house ‘Thank you Jesus,’” she told ABC 15 Arizona on Monday.

That’s because Cobb has been pursuing a lawsuit against the Tempe Union High School District for disregarding complaints she made in 2014 concerning discrimination.

“I had been portrayed in this community as the crazy, angry Black woman who claimed that there were racial issues at Desert Vista High School, but apparently there were not,” Cobb said.

During a civil rights protest on Monday organized by the Rev. Jarrett Maupin outside of the high school, one of the six teens, Rachel (who is the “R” in the photo), addressed the approximately 50 people in attendance.

“I have come here to say that I know people have been offended from what I did, and I’ve come here to say I am incredibly, incredibly sorry,” she said. “I have love for everyone in my heart. I am not a racist, and I am asking everyone for forgiveness.”

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Desert Vista High School has 3,014 students of which 66 percent are white and 7 percent Black. {snip}

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