School officials in Minnesota are investigating a social media post that showed a black student with a noose around his neck, captioned, “Gotta hang ‘em all.”
"I feel heartbroken (and) little fearful because, you know, this type of hate represents a lot more than just a picture that was spread around in the school,” said the boy’s uncle, Stephan Witherspoon. “It represents a people that have been oppressed for hundreds of years — hosed and burned and lynched."
The two Denfeld High School students who created and distributed the image through Snapchat have been identified.
The superintendent said Duluth School District is "taking appropriate action through its policies,” although he said he was unable to discuss possible punishment.
The teen’s uncle and grandmother, who is chairwoman of the district's Education Equity Advisory Council, said school officials took swift action when they were notified of the image.
But they each believe the students’ actions represent a “hate crime.”
"It instills fear in our young, especially our young African American men and women," Witherspoon said.
Sharon Witherspoon said she would be upset about the incident if someone else’s grandchild was targeted.
"These are children,” she said. “Does that concern me? Yes. But sometimes a lesson has got to be learned."
Members of the Black Student Association at the University of Minnesota-Duluth said the Snapchat image reminded them of a racist effigy of President Barack Obama that was displayed after his re-election.
A noose was tied around the effigy’s neck and tied to an electronic billboard along a highway.
The local NAACP chapter urged a comprehensive response to the social media incident, and the school superintendent said the district would work with families and community leaders to resolve the issue.
"It affects the whole community," said Superintendent Bill Gronseth. "I'm not just talking about the students involved, but those affected by it.”
Watch this video report posted online by Northlands News Center: