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White teen’s rap about killing Black people prompts larger conversation about race on the Iron Range

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

A northern Minnesota community is dealing with the aftermath of a video showing a white student rapping about wanting a holocaust for Black people. Aynsley Erickson is a junior at Virginia Secondary School. I’m told Erickson recorded the slur-filled video last year and that another teen posted it without permission.

We have chosen not to censor Erickson’s language choices in this video.

Community creating space for conversations about racism

One community member shared the video on Facebook and wrote, “This was brought to the Virginia High School’s attention and they have yet to give her any sort of repercussions. She was advised to stay home for a few days. The school asked the police department to give her an escort to school for her protection.” For context, Virginia High School is about three hours north of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

I reached out to leaders in the Rock Ridge School District about the claims. They deny having any awareness of any student being escorted by police. I also asked about their response upon learning about the video and referenced their own policies and procedures around harassment. On December 23, the administrative assistant for Rock Ridge Superintendent Noel Schmidt replied, in part:

The District does not condone any type of discrimination, bullying, or harassment. Specifically, the District repudiates any use of racist remarks or language by its students. The safety and wellbeing of our students is one of our top priorities, and because of that, the use of racist language is absolutely not allowed as this type of language could interfere with student wellbeing or the educational environment.

“My initial reaction to the video was, ‘I pray my children never have to see this,’” said Seraphia Gravelle, co-founder of Voices for Ethnic and Multicultural Awareness (VEMA). “My next thought was, ‘Who is taking care of the students of color that already have seen it?’”

VEMA was founded in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd with the goal of providing a voice for people of color throughout the region. “Historically there has been a lack of representation as well as complaints and concerns falling on the deaf ears of the leaders of the regional community,” according to the VEMA website.

This morning, Gravelle and other VEMA members met with Rock Ridge Public School leaders and, at the moment, feel the school has a good short-term plan to address the harm Erickson caused. According to the statement from the school:

The District is scheduling meetings and listening sessions with students, sending students and staff to workshops, and working to set up restorative circles where students can discuss their experiences.

"Considering the area that we’re in, there's going to be a learning curve for folks, and that's something we experience every time a situation like this comes up," said Gravelle. "Sometimes they have to hear hard truths, and that can only happen when they listen to the voices of people affected by racism."

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