Dalila Omerovic, Staff Writer

Just three days before a day dedicated to honoring the legacy of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., a video showing an encounter between a high school student wearing a MAGA hat and an elderly Native American man went viral on Instagram. The video spread rapidly across social media. People quickly shared their opinions and judgements about the incident, without truly knowing the series of events that led to the exchange between the student and elderly man. Online misinformation is on the rise and the political polarization in today’s society could not be any more prevalent.

Friday, three different groups were gathered in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: a group of students from the Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, a group of Hebrew Israelites and a group of Indigenous people. The video depicts the student staring down and smirking at the Indigenous man as he was singing a ceremonial song and playing the drums in support of the Indigenous Peoples March. The public was quick to criticize the teenager. The encounter garnered media attention and was shared by many mainstream news sources. Later that day, a longer video filmed by a member of the Hebrew Israelites was released.

The extended video showed many things the original did not. First, the group of Hebrew Israelites began to harass the group of high schoolers by calling them derogatory names. The students retaliated by yelling school chants and gestures, as they would at a football game. As the environment grew more tense, the Native American man-made his way through the crowd of high school students while singing and playing the drums in what seemed to be an attempt to defuse the situation. Here, he was faced with the student who would not clear the way for him. The video ends with the student smirking at the elderly man provocatively.

The left side viewed the kid as racist and disrespectful, while the right seemed to show support for the kid for standing up in his political views, even if they were unpopular. In both scenarios, there was an incredible lapse of judgement in evaluating who was to blame in this viral moment.

The biggest problem I gathered with this incident lies primarily with misinformation, especially on the internet. The first video clip shared was entirely too short for people to be able to decipher what took place that day. However, this did not stop the video from being shared and eventually making national headlines. Even President Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy, tweeting that the student was being treated unfairly by the media and how evil fake news can be. Misinformation is used and spread to further divide us in politics, only adding to how polarized we are as a nation. In the era of the internet, we must work hard to determine the information we access is accurate, reliable and trustworthy.