A Robertsdale, Ala. teenager has felt the wrath of the Internet after posting a photo from a pep rally of her carrying a sign that read “Put The Panic Back In Hispanic.”
This happened yesterday at our school pep rally. They know it's Hispanic Month. That's very disrespectful in so my ways….
The 16-year-old high school student was photographed with the school mascot and a friend who was holding a “Trump: Make America Great Again” flag. The post quickly went viral and people were not happy about it.
The caption for the Instagram post that went viral reads: “Put The Panic Back In Hispanic” ? #dontgetButthurt I’m honestly not gonna care if you do anyways so!! ? ? #sorryboutit”.
According to AL.com, the student originally tried to explain the sign as something solely for the game against her school’s rival team, the Spanish Fort Toros, and not a political statement. The teenager also wrote an apology letter to the Baldwin County School Board, which was obtained by News 5 WKRG. The letter reads:
“I am one of the girls in the picture at the Robertsdale High School pep rally. I had the sign that said ‘Put the ‘panic’ back in Hispanic’. Sir, I would like to inform you that that wasn’t my intention and was not meat (sic) for it to be taken that way. We played the Spanish Fort Toros on Friday night, I was meaning ‘panic the Toros’ considering when I think Spanish I think Mexican or Hispanic. When I realized how people were taking it, I wasn’t going to bring it. But my friend who had it in his truck brought it to the bleachers, when one of the boys sitting near me saw it and held it up. I do apologize for making our school look bad and I do understand any consequences I must face. But I also believe in my right of speech. I did not mean it in any kind of racial way, half of my family are Hispanic. Thank you for your time reading this, I apologize for all the publicity and misunderstandings this has brought to our school.”
Domingo Soto, a Latino civil rights attorney, has been speaking on behalf of the high school students in the photo and claims that it is all a misunderstanding.
— Jessie E. (@JessQuire24) September 18, 2017
“When I first saw it, my reaction was ‘I’m very angry. I’m Hispanic and a civil rights guy,'” Soto told AL.com. “But she’s mortified by it. It wasn’t her intention to mean anything harmful by it. It was insensitive on her part because she didn’t think about it. I’m amazed at where this has gone.”
Soto also told AL.com that he believes that the reason the photo is getting so much attention is because it fits into the narrative people have about the South and that people aren’t willing to look into the facts. According to Soto, the student never had the sign at the pep rally. Echoing what the claims in her letter to the district, Soto says the teen had left it in a friend’s truck, someone then took the sign and used it in the pep rally, then gave it to her at the end of the event.
As for how the three ended up in the picture together, Soto told AL.com that the two students and the mascot were walking out of the pep rally separately when someone asked to take their picture. This was after someone handed the sign back to the her.
According to My NBC 15, Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler said that they were aware of the image and were looking into the matter.