But the next moment is what really matters: Sandmann takes notice of the argument and quietly signals to the other teenager. It’s very quick and easy to miss: He makes a cut it out gesture.
Surely if Sandmann’s objective had been to harass the Native Americans and sow racial discord, he would not have attempted to defuse the situation. In fact, this gesture supports the claim he made in his official statement that he “motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protestor, as I was still in the mindset that we needed to calm down tensions.”
That’s just one moment from the video footage. There are others. There’s the moment when the Black Hebrew Israelites, a black nationalist cult, tells one of the few black teens that his friends are going to kill him and steal his organs, and a young white man turns to his classmate, touches him affectionately, and says, “But we love you!” There’s the moment when the black nationalists declare that “your president is a homosexual” and a high school kid responds, “Who cares?” There’s the moment when some of the teens begin to suspect that Phillips has not waded into their midst with the best of intentions (he would later assert to media reporters that the teens were “beasts” and the cult members “their prey,” a false and possibly willful misreading of the situation) and one shouts, “I’m so confused.”