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Racist graffiti found in Philadelphia Catholic school bathroom, police investigating

The incident in February at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls is the second of its kind at a local Catholic school in roughly a year.

(Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is once again responding to an incident of racism, following the discovery of anti-Black graffiti in a bathroom at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Hunting Park.

The archdiocese has not publicly acknowledged the incident, but a spokesperson shared with BCM a letter school administrators sent to students’ families on Feb. 28, the day of the discovery. It describes the writing found in a stall as “racially charged” and “a general threat against the safety of our school.”

The letter does not specify the text of the graffiti, but local reports indicate that it read, “The Blacks [sic] girls here need to die.” along with a disparaging message about Black History Month. (Little Flower High’s student body is majority Black and brown.)

The incident has striking similarities to an incident almost exactly a year ago in the archdiocese, at St. Hubert Catholic High School For Girls in the Holmesburg neighborhood. In that case, a video posted by students from the school went viral online, also ridiculing Black History Month and additionally featuring pupils in blackface. The offending students were later expelled.

Racist graffiti is not new to Little Flower High, as messages reading “Whites Rule America” and “I love Hitler!” were found in a bathroom in 2017. That same year, the school was noted as part of an anti-bias training program run by the Anti-Defamation League.

Following the latest discovery of racist graffiti, Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia expressed a message of disappointment in a letter to the Little Flower High community.

“As I’ve said before many times, racism is a mortal sin and an attack on God’s most precious gift, that of human life. Racism is a vile evil. It has no place in our hearts, our lives, our Church, or our schools,” he wrote on March 1.

“When identified, those responsible for this behavior will face severe consequences. They have reopened deep and ugly wounds that debilitate our Church and our community-at-large. In my heart, I know that these actions do not represent you or what Little Flower stands for.”

The same day, school administrators informed families that the Philadelphia Police Department is conducting an investigation of the graffiti. No involved students had been publicly identified as of Wednesday afternoon and school officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the Blackest major cities in the country, Philadelphia is home to numerous parishes and Catholic schools with a significant Black population. Even so, archdiocesan schools have experienced a number of racist incidents involving students in recent years, such as at St. Hubert and in 2021 at Archbishop Ryan High School.

Little Flower High faculty and staff are said to be partnering with a local Catholic university for professional development related to social-emotional health, and with Archbishop Pérez’s Commission on Racial Healing.

“Little Flower takes great pride in its long history of being a welcoming and culturally diverse community which empowers young women to become contributing members of the Church and society,” officials said in their latest letter to the school community on the racist graffiti.

“Please be assured that every aspect of this matter is being taken seriously and being handled as swiftly as possible.”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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