By Olga Khazan
When I was in high school in McKinney, Texas, I won a “student of the month” award along with several other students. I went to a public high school, but the award was overseen by the local Rotary Club. The award ceremony was a typical luncheon: baked chicken, big round tables with the boys and girls of the month fidgeting and hoping their parents wouldn’t say anything embarrassing.
The only unusual thing about it was that, although no one had stated their religious affiliation, the ceremony opened with a Christian prayer. Better yet, the aim of the prayer was for God to grant George W. Bush a second term of his presidency.
At the time, this was not that surprising. McKinney was, and in some ways still is, a small, conservative southern town—the kind of place where people don’t always stop to consider whether everyone else in the room agrees with them.
I hadn’t thought much about the Rotary Club event until recently, when I saw McKinney pop up in the news for what would be the first of its two national incidents in as many weeks. On Wednesday, June 3, at least two students at McKinney’s Faubion Middle School were sent home after they wore shirts that said, simply, “Gay O.K.” Several others were told to cover over the message. The shirts, reportedly worn to support a seventh-grader who recently came out, bore a message that was deemed “not school-appropriate” by the administration, the students said.
Later, something even more chilling beamed out of my hometown and across the Internet: Police officers responded to a “disturbance” at a pool party in a wealthy part of town. According to some of the teens involved, a squabble broke out when several (white) adults began complaining that many (black and white) teens had arrived at the pool. A white woman slapped a black girl, one witness said, and a larger brawl involving hair-pulling broke out.
When they arrived, police officers told several black boys at the scene to sit on the ground. One white officer, Eric Casebolt, drew a gun on a couple of unarmed black boys. When 15-year-old Dajerria Becton, who is also black, began walking away, Casebolt threw her to the ground and pinned her there, his knees pressed against the small of her back.