If, like me, you live in Central Jersey, you’re probably aware of a local incident that is attracting national attention. Last week a group of Princeton High School boys played a version of beer pong called “Jews vs. Nazis” and posted pictures on social media. Then a brave and forthright fellow student, Jamaica Ponder, who happens to be African-American in a school community that is almost entirely white and Asian,wrote a blog about it and today the New York Times picked up the story.
I don’t believe those boys are anti-Semitic (although, of course, I could be wrong). I think they were just oblivious to ways in which their actions, which they chose to preserve on social media, could be hurtful. They live in a bubble of privilege and feel free to opt out of ethical behavior.
Jamaica puts it best:
Their privilege is blinding them to the problem at hand. They are student leaders. By acting this way, not only are they hurting the school, they are hurting the community.
This sort of myopia, this cluelessness of privilege, reminds me of the opt-out movement in New Jersey, where Princeton plays a starring role. The district is the birthplace of Save Our Schools-NJ and last year had one of the highest opt-out rates in the state, about 68%. Pressed by parents (like SOS members), pressed by privilege, students opted out not only of state standardized tests -- which they’d taken for years without controversy -- but opted out of a statewide collaborative effort to measure achievement gaps.
It’s all about them. That’s what SOS wants you to teach your children.
Meanwhile in Princeton, the police are investigating, the school is issuing statements, and Jamaica is getting grief from those who feel she should have protected the identity of the boys because “the publicity may hurt the players’ standing with their sports teams and their chances of getting into college.”
But Jamaica is standing strong. She writes,
Putting the picture on social media means that someone was proud enough of the game to want to show it off. Meaning that they must be trapped in the delusional mindset that making a drinking game based off of the Holocaust is cool. Or funny. Or anything besides insane. Because that’s what this is: insanity.
I’m not even Jewish and I’m still offended. This type of behavior makes me believe that this group of guys would readily play “pin the noose on the nigger,” just as readily as they incorporated an “Anne Frank” cup in their noxious little game of pong. Yes, that happened. No, you can’t just make this stuff up.