‘Just Plain Wrong’: Hooded H.S. Wrestlers Pose With a Hanged Dummy

School officials are investigating the photo of the wrestlers with a Black dummy on a noose. Two of the teens are wearing their sweatshirt hoods pulled up into points.

By Albert Lin

The Phillipsburg (N.J.) School District is investigating a photo of what appears to be seven Phillipsburg High School wrestlers posed with a black wrestling dummy hanging from its neck. Two of the wrestlers have the hoods of their sweatshirts pulled up into points.

Superintendent George Chando confirmed to the Warren Reporter that the photo, which he said only came to the administration’s attention recently, is being investigated. “This is a student matter that is currently under investigation and upon conclusion of the investigation, the district will take those actions necessary and allowable with law and district policies,” Chando wrote in an email.

In a brief phone conversation with The (Easton, Pa.) Express-Times, Chando would not say whether officials have identified the seven teens or where the photo was taken, although it appears to be set in a school locker room or gym.

Wrestling coach Dave Post told The Express-Times, “I cannot comment on the situation, other than to say it is a private student matter that’s currently under investigation.”

Wrestlers Hanging Dummy full

The wrestling dummy in the photo is wearing a Paulsboro (N.J.) High School wrestling T-shirt. Host Phillipsburg defeated Paulsboro in a dual meet on Feb. 1. Both teams were ranked in The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger’s top 10 at the time. Phillipsburg completed an undefeated season and won the Group 4 state title on Sunday.

Paulsboro Superintendent Walter Quint told the South Jersey Times that he spoke with Chando on Tuesday morning, with both superintendents expressing their disappointment in the students. “We’ve had a 15- or 20-year-history of outstanding wrestling contests between the two schools. In all cases, the wrestlers and teams have had good competition,” Quint said. “This is just unfortunate. It diminishes two quality programs that respect each other. What was in that picture was just plain wrong.”

Quint said that the racial implications—dark dummy, noose, pointed hoods—are hard to ignore and that the photo shows “a complete lack of the history and the prejudices” that Americans have worked to overcome.

The grandmother of an 11-year-old in Paulsboro’s junior program had to explain to her grandson what lynching was. “When I saw [the photo] last night, I was just sick to my stomach,” Patty Farrow told the South Jersey Times. “I got to see the picture and I had to really look at it to make sure no one was misinterpreting what that picture was, but there is no misinterpretation. That was white kids on a wrestling team lynching a Paulsboro wrestler. This transcends wrestling.”

Phillipsburg is located in western New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Easton, Pa. As of the 2010 Census, the town’s population was 83.4 percent white and 7.5 percent Black. Paulsboro is a suburb of Philadelphia, with a population that was 54.5 percent white and 36.7 percent Black in 2010.

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  • They’re simply imitating what they are exposed to within their “circle”, be it at home, school, church, etc. It is their environment.

    • Using a word like “simply” is not appropriate in this discussion at all. These young men need to be held accountable immediately …. Wrong is wrong

      • OMG you really believe that you can condone this atrocity with “oh they didn’t know it was wrong because their friends think it is okay” Illustrates in microcosm what is so wrong in society.

        • NonWhiteHispanicPR

          I don’t think JJW is condoning their actions; it seems he was trying to express that they are the product of their environment and that their racial and prejudicial tendencies were passed on. It is not a justification but an opinion attempting to explain why they would behave in such manner.

  • Shocking that it would happen in this day and age and in New Jersey, no less. But, these are young people, and this presents a perfect opportunity for a “teachable moment.” Otherwise, they may move on to a Miami Dolphins locker room-type scenario.

  • This is not “just plain wrong”; it is racist, outrageous, and it is not “just a student matter.”
    These children act out of what they have been taught to think is okay, is acceptable, and encouraged to see this as “jokes.” They should be expelled, and taken through major rehabilitation about how to respect our diverse country, instead of just being “punished in some lame fashion.”
    This is symptomatic of the history of white racism. This will happen again, and again, and again if a major strategy is not thought through and implemented from the top down and the bottom up across this entire school and school district. It is time!

  • Obviously this photo posses a problem in the African American Community. Although this country hasn’t really addresses the issue of racial tension, we are aware there are pockets of hatred that is being exposed daily surrounding people of color. There really needs to be a dialog between various races to lay the issues on the table and let the chips fall as they may. At least, you would be able to identify the problem and offer a solution to metigate further issues down the road. Personally, this doesn’t shock me due to the oppession people of color has bared for decades.

    • Luke Visconti

      That photo is a problem for the entire American community. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • Michelle Worley

    I wish I could say this type of behavior from Northern children surprises me, but it does not. While I live in the Deep South where this type of behavior abounds, I have plenty of racist, bigoted relatives from the North and Midwest. So, as JJW stated above, this behavior is a product of what is considered acceptable in these children’s circles – be it home, school, church, etc. We need to change the environments. I would hope that any punishment includes a requirement for Diversity education. These kids need to learn that actions (choices) have consequences but they also need to understand why the behavior is unacceptable. They need to learn to overcome their prejudices and become more aware and considerate human beings.

  • Sharon Jordan

    Terrifying to see such a backcreep of racism in this country. Seems I am reading these kinds of stories almost daily now. Terrifying!

  • NotTHATSurprised

    I’m not surprised by this photo. Has anyone read the headlines in the last 10yrs?

    Unfortunately, because punishment is determined based on race and often done in a disproportionate manner in our society, I don’t see much coming from this.

    The problem lies within our communities but it also lies within our justice system. (Have you heard of Institutionalized Racism?)

    These young men will get a slap on the wrist (to satisfy the outcry of racism) and an argument will be made that they (the school) do not find it necessary to punish the students further because the students have a promising future and (fill in the rest here – any other excuse). Again, change the situation, if this was black students acting in such a manner and taking photos, I’m pretty sure the punishment would be severe…possibly tethering the line between civil and criminal sanctions.

    Until people can start seeing people as people. Seeing kids as kids regardless of their race. Valuing life no matter what the color of the person skin is. Stories like this will continue to be our reality. I say our reality, not just because of my race but because I am an American citizen and this problem is a problem for everyone living in America.

    I don’t think the Trayvon Martin Tragedy and subsequent tragedies would occur so often if society would value black life just as much as any other life in this country.

    Until then. Until everyone (every race) becomes outraged by the nonsense mentioned in this article, there will continue to be more instances of this.

    Whenever something happens to a person of color, it simply becomes a black community issue, instead of an American Issue. I don’t want to ignore the people who ARE indeed outraged by racism regardless of who is involved. However, these individuals do not reflect the majority. The majority being the powers that be. Those in charge. Those in position to affect change.

    We have so far to go in this country.

  • I agree with PatrickJH. Hit them where it hurts. Strip them of the state title. Also, Sharon Jordan is correct in saying that a “backcreep” of racism is rearing its ugly head all over again in bolder more brazen ways (these idiots took pictures of themselves), from the outlandish comments and behaviors spewed forth by some GOPers, aimed at the POTUS, to Trayvon Martin, to these apparent skin-heads in New Jersey. Seems as if we are not “leaning forward” but taking giant steps backwards. How extremely devasting and disturbing for us as a society.

    • Luke Visconti

      There is a significant neo-Nazi population in New Jersey, mainly south and west in the state. The Catholic church in my hometown was burned to the ground by the KKK in the 1930s, and keep in mind that the Hitler-lover Charles Lindberg was very comfortable in Hopewell. This is not the past—there are active white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups at work today. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • During the 2012-2013 school year, at a high school in Minneapolis, a Black doll dangling from a noose in the stairwell cause similar outrage. The students involved were disiplined, community meetings ensued and the Principal removed. My daughter attends the school and her respone was “They were just playin’, it could have been a purple doll (her words) and they would have done the same thing.” I was horrified and comforted by her response. Horrified because she was unable to understand just how offensive such an image could be but comforted because her reponse indicated in a sense that we had somehow begun to transcend our history. Lynching was/is an abstract concept to her, something that happenened in the past with little or no connection to her. That changed when she saw the lynching scene that occured in the movie “Queen”. We watched it together and afterward I made the comment “That is why a Black doll dangling from a string is so offensive.” Our discussion ended with a powerful lesson learned about power, oppression, how lynching Black people is an extension of those but most importantly that we are not post racial and that Black people are still sufferring because of the past.

  • I’m really not surprised by this hideous, atrocious and ignorant display of white male privilege. I was born and raised in the segregated south and find this sickening. Racism will never be eliminated in this country as long as some racist whites continue with this despicable behavior. Since President Obama was elected we see these Neanderthals coming out the woodwork (the Tea Party people felt this way all along; his election just animated these gouls). I think it will take nothing short of a revolution to get a society in which people of different races/ethnicities are respected and treated equally. This is just the beginning and with the stand your ground laws it will get even worse. We need a new version of a Black Panther Party.

  • Unfortunate that such expressions of hate, bigotry and intolerance are increasing in our so-called “Christian nation” with little or no rebuke from the body of Christ. This sin of attitude and action does not bode well for our nation’s future. I can envision nothing more dangerous to our continued existence than turning against each other!

  • I think the young men were trying to show some team spirit, that their team was better than the opposing team. I think it was a misguided attempt, and either they didn’t recognize what they were doing was a huge mistake, or they didn’t appreciate how huge a mistake it was to portray a black mannequin being lynched by white students. It seems like there are several options for response: they could be punished (like have their team title stripped from them) or this could be used to help them gain a wider perspective of how the US has struggled with race for hundreds of years and to help them see their role in this struggle. I hope this doesn’t just disappear, and that we get a chance to find out how the schools, parents and community handle this.

    • Luke Visconti

      There is an organized effort to downplay this incident, the same kind of thing we saw with George Zimmerman. I find it astonishing—a predominantly white school is set to have a match with a predominantly Black school and players (one with a pointy white hood) pose with a Black wrestling dummy hanging by a noose. Either the players are the most ignorant students in New Jersey, or this is about race. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

      • It’s definitely about race. What I struggle with is how best to handle the situation. These are young men, clearly ignorant — as are alot of young people (our fault) — about relatively-recent racial history, including why a noose is such a terrifying symbol. They, clearly, need to get the message that their behavior is unacceptable — and why — but, ideally, in a way that doesn’t harden them into a racist position, but guides them into a more enlightened one.

  • This is exactly what you have when you don’t have diversity. Improper home training and the media are an unfortunately excellent combination for promoting ignorance whether it’s in the overt form of the south or the quiet, slick and institutional/political of the hypocritical northern cities. Same drink in a different glass !!

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