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Racist 'promposal' shows troubling social media trend: 'Bigotry is funny'

Hannah Fry and Colleen Shalby, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The racist "promposal" that has rocked Palos Verdes High School is part of what at least one expert says is a much larger problem.

Even in a state as diverse as California, there are some pockets where racist behavior still thrives, often in the form of jokes and purposeful challenges to political correctness.

Brian Levin, director of Cal State San Bernardino's Center on Hate and Extremism, noted there are still communities in California that are highly segregated. This, he said, along with such factors as ignorance and bigotry can contribute to an increase in hate incidents.

"Many of these people who are engaging in hate speech are not hardcore hatemongers," he said. "We have this middle group of people who think bigotry is funny."

WHAT HAPPENED AT PALOS VERDES?

An image taken during a "promposal" that included a racial slur appeared on social media this week.

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A photo shows a boy, identified by his peers as a foreign exchange student, smiling. With him is a girl, who has thrown her head back in laughter.

They are holding a poster that reads, "Bianca You are racist, but I would give anything for you to go with me to prom." Six extra-large letters within that message spell out the N-word. The bold lettering of the racial slur stands out starkly.

Palos Verdes High School Principal Allan Tyner visited classrooms Wednesday to address the message with students. He said the conversations were to "review appropriate behavior" and "how the use of hurtful racial slurs ... is unacceptable."

The campus was more empty than usual because some students opted to stay home after threats of a shooting circulated on social media following the promposal photo.

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