Teenagers’ actions can reflect both the absence of wisdom and of consequences, depending on who is acting and who is being acted upon.

-Imani J. Jackson

American children often learn in school, in society, and at home, that the position of the U.S. presidency is of peak prominence. Presidents, they hear, are supposed to be exemplary leaders who represent all of the people. But, what happens when a climate-change-denying, dog-whistling-dumpster-fire-of-a-person, with a history of dining and dashing on business contracts, non-consensual sexual advances on women, pursuit of the death penalty for innocent and exonerated young men of color, refusals to offer a timely call out of active white supremacists — a man who also has zero political experience — remains president? Aberrant behaviors become normalized. 

Recently, the mother and grandmother of a biracial eight-year-old in New Hampshire learned that white teenagers tried to lynch their loved one all because of his skin color.

Lorrie Slattery, the boy’s grandmother, told Valley News he played outside with neighborhood teenagers last month when the teens called the boy racial slurs and hit him with sticks and rocks.

Per Valley News: “The situation escalated when some or all of the teens stepped up on a picnic table and grabbed a nearby rope that had been part of a tire swing,” Slattery said. “The (teenagers) said, ‘Look at this,’ supposedly putting the rope around their necks,” Slattery said. “One boy said to (her grandson), ‘Let’s do this,’ and then pushed him off the picnic table and hung him.”

Valley News further reported the boy “swung back and forth three times from the rope before he was able to free himself.” After experiencing cuts and rope burns, he was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and later released. When the attack occurred, no adults were reportedly present. However, the Claremont Police Department said an investigation is underway while remaining relatively tight-lipped about next steps.

RELATED: Black high school student Aina Adewunmi speaks out after seeing picture of herself being lynched

The Root’s Angela Helm pointed out that Claremont, N.H., has 13,000 residents and is 96 percent white, 0.6 percent African American and 1.8 percent biracial, per the 2010 census. These numbers highlight how non-diverse the area is, which likely compounded the teen’s actions and the boy’s trauma.

Given the circumstances, social justice activists and concerned community members told media outlets that the appropriate parties should be held responsible for their actions. Questions remain about law enforcement’s response to the attack.

“Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life,” Police Chief Mark Chase said of the teenagers involved. As Helm asserted, “Notice how he called these predators ‘young children,’ infantilizing the white teens. Conversely, teens like Trayvon Martin are made out to be hulking, menacing adults.”

Events like these serve as reminders that minors can be repositories for society’s racist sentiments. Remember, white families brought their children to view lynchings of Black people. Contemporary teenagers’ actions can reflect both the absence of wisdom and of consequences, depending on who is acting and who is being acted upon. What else is abundantly clear? If these behaviors and the attendant racist belief systems remain unchecked, they can show up later through tiki torch marches, vehicular attacks or worse.

According to the boy’s grandmother, “If it was an accident, that boy or anybody there wouldn’t have left him. I believe it was intentional.”

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