2017-08-10 / Editorials

Video reveals an ugly side of the bubble

Acorn Editorial Board

A 38-second video showing a group of raucous white Thousand Oaks teens disparaging black people and using the N-word repeatedly while they listen to music in the back seat of a car is making the rounds on social media.

As tempting as it might be to ignore this ugliness, attribute it to young people behaving badly and move on, maybe now is as good a time as any to start a dialogue about the issue of race relations in the Conejo Valley.

The crudely shot clip was posted to Snapchat on Sunday night before spreading like wildfire on Twitter and Instagram Monday and Tuesday. Hoping there had been some mistake, our staff sought to confirm the identities of the faces in the video. To our distress, they were indeed high school upperclassmen in Conejo Valley Unified.

While it’s true the teens are yelling along to rap music, where the use of the N-word is prevalent, what’s said by at least one individual in the car reaches far beyond the boundaries of youthful poor judgment and into the realm of racism. The fact that no one in the vehicle is heard to reprimand him after the wildly offensive remark is equally upsetting.

It is the perfect T.O. stereotype—entitled white teens using a hateful word to describe black people while listening to black music. Only it’s real. The disturbing episode is proof that even in the heart of progressive California, racist language is still pervasive.

Do the teens in the video really hate African Americans? Probably not. Nor do the actions of a few individuals define our community or our school district. But we’d be naive not to see a link between life in the Conejo bubble and the shameful and embarrassing behavior on display in that video.

It’s been seven years since the last official U.S. census, but we wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say local demographics haven’t changed dramatically since the last count put the percentage of African Americans living in Thousand Oaks at less than 1 percent of the total population. According to the most recent figures available from the state Department of Education, blacks make up just 1.5 percent of the CVUSD student body.

With so few African Americans to interact with, too many of our young people see blacks and other minorities only through the lens of Hollywood, the music industry and sports. They fail to understand the painful history of that ugly word, to empathize with those who have been its target and to comprehend the atrocities committed by those who’ve used it.

Yes, diversity is being taught in our classrooms, but is enough being done at home?

Let’s use this repugnant video made in our own backyard as an opportunity to speak with our children about racism and to confront our own underlying prejudice or bias. As with so many other troubling issues that persist in the Conejo Valley—drug abuse, suicide, etc.—nothing gets solved if we just pretend it doesn’t exist. It does.

Upscale homes with lush landscaping. Hundreds of square miles of pristine open space. Well-kept streets and neighborhoods. None of this beauty means anything if we allow our community to be ugly on the inside.

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