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Still blind to swastikas in school

THE FOILING of the massacre plot at Marshfield High School did not quell the hatred that continues to swirl in school hallways, snaking up and down stairwells until it snatches an alienated body and turns it into an alien soul.

One of the two arrested youths wore a Nazi swastika on his shirt. The other studied the "Anarchist Cookbook," favorite resource for successful and would-be massacre masterminds. It's mind-boggling that these kinds of violent symbols continue to surface, and yet no one -- not teachers, not parents, not other students -- does anything about it.

The Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh gave friends "The Turner Diaries," a novel that imagined a race war of white men "taking back" America from people of color, Jews, and big government. Accomplice Terry Nichols owned the Anarchist Cookbook. Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris used racial epithets and were fascinated with Adolf Hitler. Oklahoma City was nine years ago. Columbine was five years ago. McVeigh was executed. Klebold and Harris killed themselves at Columbine. Their hatred kept swirling.

In 2001, high school students in Kansas and New Bedford were arrested on suspicion of planning massacres. In Kansas the police found white supremacist drawings, Confederate flags, and the Anarchist Cookbook. In New Bedford, investigators found a picture of Hitler, a meat cleaver, an ax, and a bomb recipe book. In New Bedford, evidence indicated that the plotters targeted African-Americans, Latinos, and "preppy" white youth.

In 2003 a student withdrew from a Georgia high school after being arrested for displaying swastikas and having a locker containing a razor knife, racial epithets, and the Anarchist Cookbook. Last month a youth was arrested in Michigan and charged with planning a massacre. Police found an AK47, explosive materials, swastikas, Nazi literature, and a photo of Hitler.

In e-mail chats, the youth said: "Diversity kills. There would be no hate in an all-white world." He said he would also kill white people who "didn't meet my definition of being white. . . . if you like black music, black culture . . . you're not white."

In nearly all the broken-up plots, the youths glorified Columbine. Several of them bragged to friends that their goal was to surpass the carnage of that Colorado high school. When the New Bedford arrests were still fresh, that city's police spokesman said: "Columbine was a wake-up call. We probably wouldn't have taken it as seriously without Columbine."

Indeed, authorities, school administrators, and students have stayed awake just enough to avert a repeat of Columbine. But the persistent ties between Nazi hate and massacre plots make it obvious that as the passage of time seduces us to lower our guard, some possessed youth will evade detection or be ignored by those around him until it is too late.

As happy as everyone should be that the plot at Marshfield was stopped, the Globe's profile of one of the two accused youths was deeply troubling. "This was a boy unafraid of a fight, a boy who once smirked as he wore a swastika-adorned shirt through the halls of Marshfield High School," the Globe wrote. The boy was also known to have worn a T-shirt that had the date of Columbine and "Remember the Heroes" in German.

Other students, the Globe wrote, thought the youth was "just posturing." There was no further information about the wearing of the swastika, which leads to obvious questions. Did his parents know about the swastika, and did it not make them wonder what was in their kid's head? Did teachers see the swastika and ignore it as a passing adolescent stupidity? Did the students who saw it feel so intimidated that they shrank into a self-defeating code of silence?

In schools across the nation, principals and superintendents are banning gang colors, which are usually associated with violent African-American and Latino boys. Yet somehow, glorification of Columbine is "just posturing." Though Columbine and Oklahoma City demonstrated how antiblack and Jewish hate can take out lots of white, non-Jewish folks, perhaps white Americans are still tempted to look the other way at such garb because deep down, they feel the swastika is not meant for them.

If that double standard is true, then no lesson has been learned. Columbine was scary enough to result in stopping actual violence. It was not scary enough for America to make the fight against racism and anti-Semitism as mandatory as mandatory tests. With so many incidents that echo Klebold and Harris and so little done to stop the reverberation, we dare kids to go from posturing in swastikas to cooking up a massacre.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is 

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