Viral Protest Video Sparks National Debate Over Value of Respect

The viral video depicting an encounter between a group of Kentucky high school students and a Native American elder sparked a national debate this week over the value of respect.

Respect (verb): (a) to consider worthy of high regard; (b) to refrain from interfering with.

Some accused the students of wrongdoing saying they had been disrespectfully mocking the Native American, Nathan Phillips, participating in the Indigenous Peoples March in D.C. Others blasted the media and critical viewers saying they had unfairly rushed to judgment after one of the students said he’d been trying to diffuse the situation and that the video had been taken out of context. 

Although neither side agreed on who was in the wrong, both advocated in favor of the value of respect – igniting further debate over what is respectful behavior – and what is not.

“I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.” Nick Sandmann, Covington High School Junior

In a statement provided by CNN, Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic High School, identified himself as the student in the video confronted by the Native American protestor. Sandmann said, “I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me — to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence.”

In an interview with CNN, Native American elder Nathan Phillips, explained the song he’d been singing during the incident. “The reason for it, was to bring unity and to bring love and compassion back into our minds and our beings as men and as protector of what is right, ” Phillips said. What he felt like he was witnessing, however, was hate. “I don’t like to say the word hate. I don’t like to have it in my heart, around me. It’s just not a thing I want to carry with me.”

“This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM)

Meantime, Congresswoman Deb Haaland in a statement on Twitter, wrote: “This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.”

Questions to consider: Is respect a personal value? Did the students behave respectfully? Why or why not? Did the Native American protester behave respectfully? Why or why not? Did the media and viewers behave respectfully? Did other groups involved behave respectfully? Why or why not? How will the debate influence your actions going forward?

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