Norman Hilker: Witnessing Bathroom Graffiti

I went to the English bathroom during second period on Wednesday and I found the n-word written in Sharpie in one of the stalls. It didn’t come as a big shock to me at first, me being white and not particularly offended by it, but it still wasn’t surprising after seeing other immature, boyish bathroom graffiti in the past like the f word and “send nudes” and “420.” So I ignored this; it was, after all, in the corner of the wall, so it wasn’t my issue and in my opinion it is better to lay low than to get involved somehow. It was when I went to wash my hands that I found another n word written in Sharpie on the edge of the sink, and that’s when I stopped to think: how could something like this happen? It’s a simple question, but I just found a word forbidden from my vocabulary (and essentially from the modern world) in a matter of seconds. Twice. In a learning atmosphere, we’re told to obey our teachers but also do what’s right, and I myself intend to do what’s morally right, and that is to make each and every person I know and don’t know feel welcome. In this case, I had to get back to class, but I didn’t want anyone else to see something like this. So as I was washing my hands, I used the soap and water to rub out the ink for about a minute. And in the end, I felt like I accomplished something. About an hour later, my mother came to drop something off for me, and I told her what I saw. She immediately felt compelled to write Mr. Dickinson an email about what I just saw. He sent one to me asking where this graffiti was, and I said the English bathroom. After practice coming home that evening, I found a photo on Instagram of a new message, “Kill the —.“ I had never seen something so shocking and so real since…maybe the 2016 presidential election, but that’s my opinion. Point is, when I was looking in the mirror that day, I never bothered to look in the corner of my eye to see if that message was there. Maybe it was, but what I do remember is the repetition of that expletive in only a short bathroom trip. In a public school. In a beautiful community. In an environment where everyone deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how different they may be. When I moved here nine years ago, I was treated poorly by students we now praise in the school, the names we now hear every day. So are many students all the time, but I had no idea there were others being treated worse than I was. If whoever’s reading this has done that to me or any student who feels alone or neglected or isolated, don’t expect me to retaliate or publicly embarrass you. Just know that you are responsible for what I believe is Lake Oswego’s greatest form of mistreatment, not just bullying or racism or graffiti: it’s ignorance. I strongly encourage those reading this to not stray away from the racist vandalism in our school, but to take  note that this ignorance could very well be a hovering factor in what led someone to take a Sharpie and write something so disturbing on a bathroom wall for every guy in the school to see. To the person(s) who did this to our school, live with what you have done.

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