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Reactions and Concern Over Racially Charged Photo

November 01, 2018 05:48 PM

(ABC 6 News) - A social media post showing three young men in a racially charged image has prompted responses from two school districts and has sparked controversy and outrage across Southern Minnesota.

Wesley Kyle, who is a junior at John Marshall High School, said he first came across the photo while scrolling through Snapchat on Halloween.

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"There were two people. On both sides were people dressed in a KKK outfit," Kyle said. "They were doing a Nazi salute and in the middle was someone with a black face painted on, having his arms held down by them."

He showed the photo to his sister, Jacqueline Kyle, who then took a screenshot and posted it on Facebook. It has since received hundreds of shares.

"You do feel fear," she said. "You do feel as if you don't matter. So that's why I felt it needs to be publicized, so people are aware that this is happening in Rochester, with their kids in school, where they don't feel safe."

Wesley said this does affect the way he feels at school.

"It's a very scary thought to have to be in the same lunchroom or walk past them in a hall when they could be thinking of a way to hurt me or my peers," he said.

According to a representative from Rochester Public Schools, the photo allegedly involves students at John Marshall High School.

Rochester Public Schools is investigating the incident.

A statement from RPS reads in part:

"We want to ensure you, and our community, that the District will respond in an appropriate manner based on the results of our investigation."

According to the statement, there was additional staff at the school Thursday to help support the students. It also reiterated that the photo does not reflect the beliefs of staff and students and John Marshall.

However, Wesley Kyle said this isn’t the first racially charged incident he has experienced at the school.

“You would have racism that would happen where there would be a racist fight or students calling each other names and nothing really big would be done, and it would keep going because of how small the consequences were,” he said.

A joint statement was also issued by 10 local organizations, saying actions like this cannot be tolerated. Part of the joint statement issued to media reads:

“We assert that we cannot continue to be shocked and saddened by these types of incidents without recourse.”

It also said that to “truly make our community a safe and welcoming place for everyone, we all have a responsibility to recognize and interrupt the words, actions, and attitudes around us that perpetuate white supremacy."

Wesley Kyle hopes this time will be different.

"If you allow people to get away with dressing up as a KKK member and doing blackface and run around the neighborhood doing this kind of stuff, it can get worse, like a snowball effect," he said.

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