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Responding with hate only divides community

It is hard to understand what the band director at Forest Hill High School was thinking (maybe he wasn’t thinking) Friday night when he sent students onto King Field for a halftime performance that at best was grossly inappropriate and disturbing.

Just days after Brookhaven mourned the deaths of two police officers, students with fake guns were pointing them at actors on the field. It was the worst possible time for a halftime performance that would be inappropriate at any high school at any time. It is never OK to bring fake guns onto a school campus.

The condemnation was swift. Apologies were quickly issued. The outrage grew over the weekend and continued this week.

The entire debacle — including the viciousness of some on social media in response —  threatens to pull Brookhaven apart at a time when it needs unity. The vile, disgusting, racist words directed at Forest Hill students on social media will not help this city heal. They are gasoline on an already growing fire.

The students are not to blame here, the adults are. Those responsible for the halftime show should face appropriate discipline.

Yes, there should be anger. There should be outrage. There should be condemnation. There should be consequences.

But there should not be hate. There should not be racial slurs. There should not be threats of violence.

“The back and forth, it’s not going to solve anything,” the Rev. Phillip Sterling of Grace Community Church said. “We’re only self-imploding. No one is going to win. It takes all of us getting along together.”

Brookhaven has shown remarkable amounts of grace and love in the face of what feels like an unrelenting attack. Don’t turn from that now. Don’t embrace the hate and anger that comes so easily on social media.

Those who do invite division, not unity. Brookhaven is stronger when it works together, and the city needs all the strength it can muster right now.