Questions of racism at LHS surface in April 2019

Questions of racism at LHS surface in April 2019

Gracyn Richardson, Editor-in-Chief

Congratulations to Gracyn Richardson! This story was linked and referenced within a widely-read Washington Post story, which was published Feb. 13, 2020. For more on how Lewiston schools are handling concerns regarding diversity, see this story and more of Justyna Tomtas’ coverage with the Lewiston Tribune. — Charity Egland, adviser

I want people to know that hate crimes do exist. ”

— Ashanty Bonilla

During lunch on Wednesday, April 10, a group of people at Lewiston High School tied the vehicle of Ashanty Bonilla, a sophomore, to a truck belonging to another LHS student. With that, the message “Trump 2020 Republican” was written in the dust on her windows.

“I don’t know what they were trying to do,” said Bonilla. “I was confused, and scared, considering how they were recently treating me.”

The night before the incident, Dawson Luther, LHS senior, posted one of Bonilla’s tweets on his own Snapchat story. Bonilla’s tweet read, “Unpopular opinion: People who support Trump and go to Mexico for vacation really piss me off. Sorry not sorry.”

Luther’s counter-opinion on Snapchat stated: “Unpopular opinion but: people that are from Mexico and come [in to] America illegally or at all really piss me off.”

Comments from both Bonilla and Luther stated that after the Snapchat story was posted, Bonilla texted Luther asking if he was angry with her. Luther said he was not and the two worked it out, according to both Bonilla and Luther, and the story was deleted in less than 24 hours per Luther’s choice.

Bonilla reported to The Bengal’s Purr that the following day, when she was walking into school at 7:45 a.m., racial slurs were being yelled at her. She said that she ignored them and walked inside. Bonilla claimed the slurs came from a specific group of LHS boys (who are not being named because of confidentiality). But in a meeting with The Bengal’s Purr the following week, those boys either denied the accusations, or said that they did not hear anyone saying anything.

In her interview, Bonilla said that for the rest of the day on April 11, she was feeling scared and attacked. But, she added, this was not the first time that LHS students had apparently yelled racial slurs at her. Bonilla’s heritage is part Mexican and African-American, and she has grown up in Lewiston. The population of Lewiston is as follows:
• 30,756 are Caucasian
• 717 are two or more races
• 452 are American Indian and Alaskan Native
• 311 are Asian
• 132 are black or African-American
• 93 are another race
• 21 are Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander

“It’s so different seeing stuff happen in the news and on T.V. and thinking that it would never happen to me,” Bonilla said. “But the truth is that it does happen to not just me, but a lot of people of color in this small valley.”

When lunch rolled around April 10, Bonilla walked out to her car to go to off-campus lunch. She found her car tied up to another LHS student’s truck. The student whose truck was tied to Bonilla’s vehicle had no part in the events, and did not have lunch at that time, according to Luther and Bonilla.

“When it happened, I knew that she was going to think it was me, when it wasn’t,” Luther said in an interview with The Bengal’s Purr. “I texted Ashanty telling her that I had no involvement in it, and she believed me. Everyone still thinks that I conspired all of it and I have had to stay home from school because of the comments people say to me.”

“I want to clear things up, but now since I was cleared of it [by administration], I don’t know what else I can do to clear my name,” Luther said.

School administrators reported that one student received disciplinary measures related to the April 10 event. But due to student confidentiality, the student’s name was not reported.

“I think I’m going to transfer schools possibly next year,” Bonilla said. “I want to go somewhere that I know I’ll have supportive friends — not that I don’t have any here, I just want to be accepted for every aspect of me.”

“I want people to know that hate crimes do exist, and I believe that I did go through one, but not as extensive as others have,” Bonilla said.

In response to these recent events, LHS sophomore, Kiara Foreman, is in the process of starting an LHS minority club.

“I wanted to start it because there is such a little number of people of color in town, let alone at LHS,” Foreman said. “I think that creating a club that will bring us together, to just talk or discuss what’s happening in our lives about any offsetting events that have happened to us, will be beneficial to our lives in high school.”

“I think that our school is very ignorant or blind to the struggles of different kinds of people all around the world,” Foreman added. “We are such a small community and they don’t get to experience things outside of it, and me creating this group might shine light on that.”