She Risked Her Safety At School To Reveal Racism

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Cydney Smith
November 12, 2019

North Carolina is no stranger to racism. In the past decade alone, the state has made headlines for racist voter ID laws that targeted and suppressed Black voters with “surgical precision.” State legislators were also highly criticized for repealing the Racial Justice Act.

But racism in the state trickles down to our most impressionable populations: children. And now, one 14-year-old is making headlines for bravely going undercover to expose the racially disturbing conversations that transpired amongst her classmates - conversations that threatened the lives of Black youth.

When Cenayia Edwards, a freshman at East Wake High School, first learned of a group chat from her white friend - a group chat that had taken a racist turn - Edwards immediately had one response:

“I was like, ‘Add me to it,’ because I wanted to see what they were talking about,” the girl shared with ABC 11 WTVD. “And I wanted to have proof that they were talking about this.”

But she couldn’t infiltrate the group as the Black girl she is. She had to go undercover. And so, she created a profile, changed the avatar to a white face, and was granted access. Once inside, “she says she was horrified.”

“Pullin triggers and shootin niggers.”

“Kill nigger babies.”

“#bring slavery back.”

These are just a handful of the vitriolic comments spewed in the group chat - one started by students she interacted with every day at school. Yet, a disturbed Edwards chose to stand up to this hate while undercover and call her classmates out. Their response?

“Shut up nigger.”

Making no progress infiltrating the group, Edwards made a bold choice to expose the messages to the public.

But for many in North Carolina, this occurrence wasn’t shocking. Just earlier this year, a single rock with two words spray-painted on it, “Kill Niggers!” exposed similar racist behavior amongst some students at South Davidson High. Video captured the act.

In such a racially tense climate - that is, in America, the state, and at Cenaiya’s school - her parents worry for Cenayia’s safety. 

“It’s scary,” her mother, Cecelia Pope Edwards, shared with ABC 11. “It made me feel uncomfortable because I’m not sure what my daughter’s up against. Because we’re getting text messages from [Cenayia] being upset, while she should be studying in her Honors English class, about kids laughing because they think using these words or saying that they’re ‘gonna kill Black kids’ and ‘if it ain’t white, it ain’t right; if it ain’t white, burn it.’”

Still, Cenaiya’s father stated, “I’m going to allow my daughter to be heard. My daughter’s not going to be quiet.”

One thing is for certain. Cenaiya Edwards has the support of her community and family. Even the Wake County School Board acknowledged her bravery.

However, many are seeking more from the Board and administrators. While the students have received undisclosed punishment, the question now stands:

What will the school do about these racist behavioral patterns? Perhaps, if they handle this incident well, they’ll be an example for North Carolina at large.

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