After a rock near South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, was vandalized over the weekend with hate speech, students at the school are responding with a message of hope and equality.
This past Sunday -- the first day of Black History Month -- a school custodian noticed that someone had painted a racial slur on a large rock on the high school campus. The custodian quickly painted over the rock, but images of it were already circulating on social media, Elaine Baker, director of information services for Rock Hill Schools, told The Huffington Post.
On Monday afternoon, after learning about the vandalism, a group of art students painted over the rock once again, Baker said. This time, the rock was painted with rainbow stripes and a message that reads “We Are All =,” as seen below:
— Rock Hill Herald (@RHHerald) February 3, 2015
THIS IS SOUTH POINTE. pic.twitter.com/w65IKoeO6H
— SPHS Drama Club (@sphs_reptheatre) February 3, 2015
— Dustin Wilson (@dustinbwilson1) February 2, 2015
"We saw that this happened to our spirit rock and we decided we needed to come out here and make it right," student Andrew Swiger told WCNC-TV about why he and his fellow art students decided to paint the rock.
"We have a diverse number of students that are predominately people of color, and I feel that everyone needs to be treated equally -- especially in our school system," student Madison Wightman told WCNC. "And with that appearing this weekend, I just really realized that we're not as equal as people say we are."
Police are currently investigating the situation and Baker says she is unaware of any suspects. The school has outdoor surveillance cameras, but Baker says she thinks it is "very unlikely that the surveillance picked up activity where the rock is."
Notably, the district recently celebrated a group of civil rights activists known as the Friendship Nine. In 1961, these nine African-American activists were arrested after they attempted to dine at a whites-only lunch counter in Rock Hill. For their crimes, they served 30 days of hard labor. Last week, a judge cleared the conviction from the activists' records.
“We had a big celebration in Rock Hill that [the arrests] wouldn’t happen now and shouldn’t have happened at all,” said Baker. “Whoever put this racial slur on the rock was somebody who decided that they don’t want to send a message like that, or who wanted to tarnish the successes that we have had.”