Since last night, multiple news stories have emerged accusing HSC students from all around New South Wales of making racist jokes about Indigenous poet Ellen van Neerven, with some students allegedly directly messaging her with slurs and abuse.
The backlash toward van Neerven began after some HSC students were asked to analyse the award-winning writer's poem 'Mango' in their final English exam.
One image, posted in the public HSC Discussion Group on Facebook, showed an image of a chimpanzee on a typewriter, with the caption, 'LEAKED IMAGE OF THE AUTHOR OF 'MANGO''.
Now, some members of the group are furious, claiming that the jokes, memes, and comments have been taken out of context. The students claim that no racism was intended, as they weren't aware of the poet's Indigenous identity.
One student wrote on a personal blog, titled 'In Defence of Yr 12 students', that the chimpanzee image in particular referenced the 'infinite monkey theorem'. The author also concedes that a small minority of students had "taken a meme too far" and some comments were "unnecessary" and could be considered "malicious harassment".
Several students claimed that the media coverage of the incident was over the top, with some commenting that "a bad poem is a bad poem", and many accused media outlets of "pulling out the racial [sic] card" when there was no racist intent.
One student sent a lengthy message to 7 News after their story on the incident, saying that while "some morally students did message [van Neerven] their frustrations", the bulk of HSC students were not racist, and none of the memes about mangoes were racially-motivated.
Despite an onslaught of complaints about the media coverage, the group continues to post memes about both the poem and the incident.
Multiple members have changed their Facebook profile images to photos of mangoes, and one member created a 'Mango Appreciation Evening' event, the description for which uses references to van Neerven's poem:
While the backlash to the incident still continues on, some members continue to post comments that contain racist language and slurs against Indigenous people:
One student, who reportedly made the initial chimpanzee meme that helped spark the media storm, posted another status within the group saying they have received death threats, and people have threatened to call their school and mother. The student also expresses frustration with the lack of apology from Evelyn Araluen, a friend of van Neerven's who has defended the poet since the initial backlash last night.