Covington Catholic student facing off with Native American man
Images of a high school student wearing a “MAGA” hat and smirking in front of a Native American elder quickly went viral over the weekend, sparking a national outcry. Image credit: Kaya Taitano/Social Media/via REUTERS

Video of the viral standoff between students from Covington Catholic high school and a Native American man in Washington D.C. captured the nation’s attention over the weekend, quickly eclipsing all other news items to become the number one story on many media outlets.

Amid the resulting firestorm of controversy, however, the role played by a third group was largely overlooked. Longer videos of the event showed that the conflict first began when a small group of Black Israelites (also known as the Hebrew Israelites, Black Hebrews, and several other variations) began taunting the high school students with lewd slurs and provocative language. The students responded with school chants.

This noisy interaction was reportedly what prompted Omaha elder Nathan Phillips to approach the two groups in a peacemaking effort. The viral footage of the standoff was captured not long afterward.

“The Real Hebrew People”

Black Israelites dressed up in colorful attire
Black Israelites typically dress either in black clothing or bright colored garb emulating ancient tribal leaders.

The Black Israelites (also known as the Hebrew Israelites, Black Hebrews, and several other variations) are members of The House of Israel, a little-known religious movement that has roots which go back to the 1700s. Black Israelites believe that African Americans are the true descendants of the Hebrew people and frequently engage in public protest to demand this heritage be recognized.

Members have shown no hesitation in using homophobic slurs, provocative racial insults, and other offensive language during public demonstrations. As a result of their campaigns against white, Jewish, and LGBT people, the Black Israelites have been branded a “hate group” by organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

In recent years, the group is perhaps best known for two things: dramatic messages about an impending apocalypse, and employing extreme profanity in order to get attention (plus capturing these interactions on video).

Black Israelite Ideology

Black Israelites reading the Bible

The House of Israel has splintered into different factions and denominations over the years, but some ideas have remained constant. Among these is a belief that the world will soon come to an end, bringing to a close the era where white men control the levers of power. From the ashes, they believe, will arise a new world in which the Israelites emerge as the rightful rulers.

Another theme which has made its way into contemporary ideology is the notion that many marginalized peoples share a heritage that can be traced back to Israel. Whether it be African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans – or numerous other demographics that have faced historic mistreatment – the Black Israelites believe these oppressed groups all originate from the ancient Hebrew peoples.

But it gets even more complicated. Teachings also stipulate that the downtrodden of the earth have experienced hardship for a reason.
According to this belief system, their common suffering is actually a result of refusing to recognize their true identity as Israelites. Therefore, the thinking goes, marginalized groups will only see better days by leaving behind whatever superficial cultural or national allegiances they might cling to and instead embracing their true destiny.

Sparking a Fire

It’s not entirely clear what drew the Black Israelites to last weekend’s “March for Life” event in the nation’s capital, but if their goal was simply to be provocative and draw attention to their cause, then it’s certainly a bit ironic that the vast majority of media coverage surrounding the controversy entirely ignored their role in igniting it.

35 comments

  1. Don says:

    “Black Israelites believe that African Americans are the true descendants of the Hebrew people and frequently engage in public protest to demand this heritage be recognized.”

    Ah, so just another delusional cult. Got it.

    1. Lionheart says:

      Religions will continue to keep popping up while ever they stop using their brains I guess. That’s how it’s been for millennia.

    2. Kitty says:

      In Africa the Queen of Sheba during the rain of king Salomon bore many descendants. It is in fact purported by many biblical scholars that Ethiopia is actually the resting and protection place of the holy grail. All religions fall into the “cult” category as do most governments. Untill we all learn a lesson from the Native American elder about peace; we are doomed as a world knitted with hate, intolerance, and religious war. Love and understanding in the face of mystery and difference.

      1. Kitty says:

        The arc of the covenant not the holy grail. Apologies on the mistake

      2. Don says:

        “Until we all learn a lesson from the Native American elder about peace”

        Um, the elder who caused the commotion in the first place by accosting a child and beating a drum in his face, all while mongrels were hurling racist and homophobic slurs at the children?

        THAT elder? Because he’s a two-faced lying sack of trash who ALSO lied about his military service? He’s a scumbag.

        1. John Owens says:

          I have to agree with you on this one, Don. I hope that doesn’t upset you.

          1. Don says:

            Why would agreeing with factually correct information upset me?
            It’s surprising that YOU finally agree with facts, but that’s on you, not me.
            P.S. – The earth isn’t 6,000 years old.

          2. John Owens says:

            Sometimes you just invent things, you know– I mean, excuses for you to argue.

          3. Teresa Kinsolving says:

            THANK YOU!!!!! Glad somebody else thought it was rediculous… I briefly spent time with an ojibwe elder as an officer with the Native American Student Association in college [he passed away a few years ago-his name was Nick Hockings-and he actually WAS a real veteran. There are some videos on youtube if anyone would care to check out some info]. I can tell you while he had no good feelings about the Catholic religion, he loved people. He taught peace- in classrooms around the United States. He did talks to educate people, he took people into his home in Wisconsin on the reservation and showed them the traditional way of life, he taught all races about love, unity, and divinity. HE was an elder. He fought for Native rights in a way that would truly change hearts… the world needs more people like HIM… Nick would have been appauled at the whole scene

      1. Kitty says:

        I 💗 this thread on my comment! I did not read this story so we can take “native America elder” out and just say let’s try to practice peace and compassion towards others. I love that you two normally argumentive folks came together for a split of a second. I’ll be smiling long about this interlude! 😸

    1. Lionheart says:

      Thanks for the reminder of this great song. Sad that Desmond is no longer with us.

  2. Mainane santo santos says:

    Remember westboro church and the crap they would spew at military funerals, this group is a reminder of that, the kid standing in front of the drum banging indian did nothing wrong and was not involved in any thing other than standing up to the screaming black hebrews, the cesspool called twitter with the anonymous commandos jumping all over him and his school mates for ridiculing the drum banging indian who by his own admission basically stuck his nose where it didnt belong, but he still found a way to blame the kid, social media is again shown as the disease that it is.

  3. Rev. Brien says:

    Ahhhh, just what we need. Another fine group of organized nut jobs. Well, on the bright side, when the nut jobs group up they are much easier to see and avoid. What is truly funny is that all of the nuts don’t realize just how ridiculous they look in a group.

  4. Debbie says:

    They are also vegans and have some amazing restaurants.

    1. John Owens says:

      If only they believed in washing their hands.

  5. William Waugh says:

    Ok. I first thought nut jobs. But, until only recently the world did not know that Jesus got married. ……..is there any real evidence to support their beliefs beyond a kinship with other historically repressed peoples. Although it is easy to associate depressed peoples with white supremacy. Where is my pendulum when I need it? Yes, no, yes no, maybe!! WTF!

    1. Lionheart says:

      Well, not only did the world not know Jesus got married….but, there is still no current evidence that he ever existed, so I’m intrigued to see the evidence that this historically illusive person got married.

      With all of his supposed friends, that people call apostles, being male, I was thinking that if he really did exist at one time, he might have been gay. I mean……if a man ever said to me, I am the light and the life, come follow me, (just paraphrasing) you wouldn’t see my heels for dust.

      What I’d also like to know is, (if he ever existed) when he was on his own in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating drops of blood, talking to his father, (which was him), who was the person that “wasn’t there” (because Jesus was alone) that recorded the event?

      I’m sure someone will have an answer, and I’m sure it will be someone that also believes in a talking ass, and a talking snake.

      I know it’s hard to believe, but people actually believe this stuff, and worse still, they have the right to vote. No wonder the U.S. is going down hill.

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      I’ve always known that Jesus and St. Judas were lovers, but didn’t know they had actually ever tied the knot. I wonder if they had any children. That could only have been the case of divine intervention, not like Mary who already had children when she became a virgin again.

  6. Lea says:

    This was a Pro life event…The American Indian was trying to defuse the situation….I’m tired of people calling others nut jobs and blaming kids for it..But it was the black Israelites that were the problem.

    As always rhe media has a field day with it and if course goes after the weak..kids.

    We are we going to realise that god has no religion..Everything is so extreme and crazy that this is going to be the death of us all.

    I stand by the American Indian because I think things could of got out of hand.

    1. Maiane santo santos says:

      Your points are well taken, and the Indian was stepping in to try and make a peace, that all is proven by extended video taken and twitter removed the account that started the brouhaha, but my only query was after the fact why didn’t he spell it out as such, he didn’t, all he said was he wishes the kids had acted differently, that was where I said wtf, if said earlier it wouldn’t appear so biased, JMHO.

  7. Tony says:

    Racism and hate perpetrated by the victims of racism and hate. Hypocrisy at its best. As the rest of us try to find common ground and heal from past mistakes, how sad it is for these poor souls who feel hate is the only way to happiness. They epitomize the League of the Perpetually Offended.

    1. Lea says:

      Tony..Your right..Its sad thing that people make themselves so important by their hate. This is why history repeated itself.

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Poor souls are not hateful people, and I will not pity or sympathize with them. The league of the perpetually offended? That sounds like the league of the perpetually self pitying cry babies, to whom which deserve no mercy.

  8. Carl Elfstrom says:

    Everyone is persecuted and hated by someone. Some feel it more than others, but nobody is free from it. Rather than being cry babies, wouldn’t it be better to learn to tolerate even the intolerable., and not let others bring us down to their level, or lower. Such acts show immaturity.

  9. Lea Weisenbach says:

    There is a difference between Religion and spiritualism..Religion is just someone’s idea..Most religions get stuck on I’m right ..your wrong..Ideas..Demonizing people which is nothing more than hate. Where as spiritualism is taking responsibility for one owns happiness. Realize that there us good in all and tries to focus on the betterment of that other person…Not destroying that person.
    There is A big difference between the two. Religion is mental slavery..And its so sad to me to see people that feel so righous in their own ignorance..Such a selfish act..

    I think it’s funny that its all men on women’s rights..crazy.. I’m Pro-choice..I wish people would listen more.

  10. Minister Post says:

    Were there not slaves in Egypt during the time of moses? Of course their were. There belief is their own. As far as rulers of the new heaven and earth. Jesus’s is very clear on this. The meek and poor shall inheret the earth. Those who were beheaded in Christ’s name, will rein with Jesus for a 1000 years.

    1. lionheart2020 says:

      That’s very interesting. How does that work for the people who were killed (beheaded or stoned) by those following God’s law?

      Also, do those that had their heads and brains smashed and splattered all over the place miss out on the 1000 years with Jesus. If they do miss out they got a real bad deal. I mean, not only did they have a very horrible death, but they miss out on being with that wonderful guy who had them killed by setting the law back in OT times.

      I bet Jesus wouldn’t want to see them anyway for fear of being punched on the nose, or poked in the eye.

      It’s a very interesting religion you are involved with isn’t it. Complex, but interesting!

      Anyway….let me know.

    2. Maiane santo santos says:

      1000 years reign? Wow haven’t heard that since, hmmmm, 1933?? And how did that go? Another narcissistic leader wanting to change the world for his beliefs, and not a religious one just a plain hate belief.

  11. John Owens says:

    I’ve talked with some Black Hebrews off and on for a couple of years. Some of the people associated with this group are not really associated in religious sense, but just want to claim the name. By that I mean that they know nothing about the Sabbath or Holy Days, the Torah, the historical separation of the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom and Jews of Southern Kingdom after the death of Solomon, or the prophecies of the kingdom.
    Most of them just use the Black Hebrew doctrine to lend some imagined credence to their claims of victim-hood and cover their own brand of racism.
    A very few try to be genuinely faithful to the Torah, without actually trying to teach it to those who are not.
    In the past, some branches of these Black Hebrews would try to dress like Samaritans and called themselves Nation of Yahweh or something like that, and were involved in murders and feuds among themselves down in Florida which resulted in the deaths of a few, if memory serves. This was around 30 years ago.

    I am not sure the Black Hebrews in this story have any connection to the ones with whom I have spoken, but listening to the shouts from them on the video clip here, they certainly sound like some of the more strident ones with whom I have disputed from time to time. This article is not very long and tells a little about them, and their hatred and killing. Their racism is evident in their teaching.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/us/09yahweh.html
    https://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article1928954.html

    The second article explains some of the crimes committed by the group also. They give Yahwists, Black Americans, and Americans in general a bad name.

  12. Tom says:

    Racist and homophobic slurs?!?! How dare they… Oh they’re black? Free pass. Let’s get those white kids!!!!!

  13. Lawrence D E says:

    I feel sympathy for the Native American elder. I am under the understanding the he served in the Marine Corps and enlisted as the Vietnam war ended. We have two ways we say that we were veterans from that era. One is that we were a Vietnam war veteran being that we served in Vietnam. The other is that they were a Vietnam era veteran being that they served in the military during the time of the Vietnam but not in Vietnam. That child should have not stood in his face while he was trying to help. Some times when two groups are in a fight it is best not to interfere at that point in time. Because when a third party becomes involved is when everything is likely to take a turn for the worse. Like the old saying you don’t want to be the third wheel.

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