Your Lives Don’t Matter: McLean High School’s Message To Its Students of Color

McLean High School, an otherwise elite public high school nestled in a sleepy, affluent town within the confines of the Capital Beltway, had a simple message for its students of color this week: Your lives don’t matter.

The school’s rock, a traditional center piece of FCPS high schools on which students may advertise charitable causes, clubs, important games, or other school events, was painted this week to read “Blue Lives Matter.” This image, taken from a public group for police officers, shows that rock.

It may seem extreme, but within the context of the ever-strained relationship between people of color in America and the police officers who kill — and blindly defend those who kill– McLean High School chose to stand against its students of color. The slogan “blue lives matter,” coined as a reactionary antithesis to the rallying cry “black lives matter,” which in turn was debuted in reaction to the extrajudicial murders of unarmed black men and women, has been used as a means of silencing activists and minorities nationwide. As Ivy Kleinbart, a professor at Syracuse University notes, the “blue lives matter” slogan “pits police lives against black lives, suggesting that we must pick sides.” The highly politicised slogan brings with it the implications that in the often murky world of criminal and racial justice, McLean High School has already picked a side.

It seems an odd choice for as unobtrusive an institution as McLean High School, notably, the administration of the school barred its Muslim Student Assosciation from posting anti-racism posters, and prohibited its award-winning theatre department from producing the Tony-Award winning musical ‘Spring Awakening.’

Certainly it cannot be expected that a school with fewer than 15% non-asian minority students will have perfect, or even admirable, racial sensitivity. There should, however, be the expectation that a public high school refrain from making any endorsements in deeply controversial and personal issues, as any such endorsements will inevitably anger some faction of taxpayers or beneficiaries of the services the school provides.

For now, it appears McLean High School has made its choice, and it is one that serves exclusively to alienate its students of color.

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