A disturbing photograph, which appears to depict high school wrestling team members posing with a black dummy hanging from a rope, is now being examined by NJ's Division on Civil Rights.
The photo shows boys wearings jackets from Phillipsburg High School posing with the dummy, which is wearing what looks like a Paulsboro High School t-shirt. Two of the boys have their hooded sweatshirts' hoods pointed. The school's superintendent confirmed that the school district was investigating the matter and that "actions were taken."
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which governs school athletics, issued a statement saying, "The NJSIAA is aware of the photograph purporting to depict seven Phillipsburg wrestlers hanging a wrestling dummy that is wearing a Paulsboro High School Wrestling shirt. We have asked Phillipsburg administrators to provide a report of the incident to NJSIAA by no later than noon on Thursday." Also, the NJSIAA alerted the Division on Civil Rights.
A NJSIAA spokesperson told The Warren Reporter that they were not notified about the incident by the Phillipsburg school district—the NJSIAA only found out from the press, "We are taking this very seriously and so is the Attorney General."
Phillipsburg Schools Superintendent George Chando referred to it as a "student matter dealing with minors... An investigation was undertaken and upon conclusion of the investigation, actions were taken by the District consistent with its policies."
The Phillipsburg High School wrestling team just won the NJ State Group 4 title; the Star-Ledger reports, "The wrestlers in the photo have not been identified, but any potential punishment could have major implications on postseason action. The District 1 seeding meeting to establish the tournament brackets is scheduled for today at Phillipsburg, and the school will host the District 1 tournament Saturday when the state individual postseason opens." A 1968 graduate of the high school who follows the wrestling team said, "Everybody’s upset. I hope this doesn’t tarnish the program. … Unfortunately, it was a bad decision made by a bunch of teenagers and now somebody is really going to pay the price for it."
Let’s hold the “it was racist” versus “it wasn’t racist” debate over a controversial wrestling team photo long enough to say just what it was in either case: Wrong...
It’s hard to believe that the Phillipsburg students — and they are students, not just wrestlers — would not know by the time they’re in high school the ugly history of lynching of black people in America and particularly the South.
But if ignorance is a basis for the students to claim innocence of racism, it’s a strong indictment of what they are being taught — and not being taught — up there in Phillipsburg.