In a way, this photo and the reactions to it are a sampling of America. Symbolism, vitriol, freedom, presumptions. Elements of each of these things, and perhaps more are evoked.
Visually, it is simple. A line of white children traverse a crosswalk. A portion of an adult is seen ahead of them, but at the head of the procession is a small boy, his left hand raised and outstretched, palm flat, fingers straight out ahead of him. At his side is a white girl.
Now to be fair, this child was not just walking down the street holding up a nazi salute and chanting "blood and soil". He was merely a little boy in a train of children who happened to swing his arm and be frozen in time. I'm fairly certain, in having seen him perform the movement as I took the picture, that he had no intention to reference a brutal regime who's followers still flourish in some circles. I think. But the real issue is not him, but rather what you as the viewer see in this image. Most have seen, and responded that children will be children. That this is merely an issue of timing and an image taken out of context. That this just like when a child first discovers that people laugh when they hold their middle finger up. But maybe, this assumption of an evenhanded response is not all the way true.
For instance, how different is this boys unintentional salute from Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun? In a way, this boy was un-American unintentionally, when Tamir was actually more American unintentionally. Guns and toy guys are as American as apple pie (see Christmas Story, etc). The only thing perhaps more American, is using those guns to defeat nazis, whether in war or jest (See WWII, Indiana Jones etc).
But isn't this indicative of something more? Children like this pictured get a chance to be called children. To rightly have the sins of their youth forgotten. Their lives are not placed in danger due to their childlike and human actions. History (and now video) has shown us that in the alternative, black children are tried as adults. I start to wonder just how quickly we are willing to wipe the slate clean? and who's slate becomes a priority?