On the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, two white Alabama high school students decided to spread hate with racist signs.
The Robertsdale High School teens posed with the Robertsdale Bears mascot during a Friday pep rally, showing off signs that said “Put the ‘Panic’ Back in Hispanic” and “Trump: Make America Great Again.” A photo of the two white students soon went viral across both Twitter and Facebook, offending many residents and alumni, as well as the Latinx community and the general non-racist public.
“Just pathetic,” Alabama Reporter’s Josh Moon wrote on Twitter. “Robertsdale High. ‘Put the panic back in Hispanic.’ The hate is definitely filtering down to the kids.”
Many agreed with Moon, calling the signs racially insensitive. Some even pointed out that Robertsdale High School has a sizable Latinx student body, making the signs antagonistic toward a marginalized group within the school.
This school has a lot of hispanic students. So sad and embarrassing.— Mike Jones (@hausofmjx) September 16, 2017
Awful. Shameful. Deplorable. What in the world are people thinking?— C Alicar (@Cynalicar) September 16, 2017
The family attorney for the teen holding the “Put the ‘Panic’ Back in Hispanic” gave local station WKRG an apology letter written by the student, which was originally intended for the Robertsdale school board. The teen writes that her sign was intended to make fun of the Spanish Fort Toros, who played against the Bears on Friday.
“I do apologize for making our school look bad and I do understand any consequences I must face,” the teen wrote. “But I also believe in my right of speech. I did not mean it in any kind of racial way, half of my family are Hispanic. Thank you for your time reading this, I apologize for all the publicity and misunderstandings this has brought to our school.”
But some are skeptical, as its pairing with the sign promoting Trump—who has made flagrant remarks about the Mexican “rapists” and undocumented citizens—makes no sense unless it’s targeting Latinx citizens.
If the excuse for Hispanic sign is that they were playing Spanish Fort, what's the excuse for the political sign?— crrodriguez (@crrodriguez) September 17, 2017
Of course in her excuse she said that she's not racist because "half her family is Hispanic". Which doesn't mean she LIKES them, btw.— Platipotter (@Platipotter) September 17, 2017
The Baldwin County School District is aware of the photo and is “following up on the matter,” although it remains unclear if the two teenagers will be reprimanded.