When Ithaca High School announced they were putting on a production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, many students believed the role of Esmeralda, a Roma woman, would go to a student of color. Instead a white student was cast, students objected, and the play was pulled. And now those same student activists are being targeted by neo-Nazis.
The high school pulled the play after five students formed a group called “Students United Ithaca,” wrote letters to the school demanding a more diverse cast. and staged a protest at a community school board meeting. But the small success of the students’ completely valid activism was derailed when Breitbart picked up on the news,b where it traveled to Fox News, The Washington Times, and the hellhole that is 4chan. Breitbart has previously covered whitewashing controversies in film and 4chan also has a field day with stories like this, who see activists as social justice warriors.
The New York Times reports that students were targeted with hate speech, lynching threats, and private messages like “You are the real Nazis of this country.” The school district had received “100 angry emails and 50 voicemails” over the casting controversy and students received pictures of themselves covered in swastikas. All because a handful of kids spoke out against the casting of their high school play.
“This is very, very surreal,” Maddi Carroll, one of the Students United, told the NYT. “It’s a lot to handle as a 17-year-old who is in high school right now, applying to college, trying to get ready for that stuff.”