Well, clearly racism is not dead, and all you have to do is go visit the Kenmore East High School girls’ varsity basketball team, just outside of Buffalo, New York, to be reminded of that sad fact. You see, it has been a tradition, going back for several years, for the teammates to hold hands in the locker room right before a game, say a prayer together (oh, how nice) and then yell, “One, two, three, n#@@&*!” rhymes with Tigger (oh, how disgusting)!
Tyra Batts, a sophomore on the team and the team’s only African-American player this year, was shocked and disgusted as well when she heard the team’s chant right before their game against Sweet Home High School on Friday, December 2. She told BuffaloNews.com in a home interview, that she argued with them about their use of the racial word, saying, “You’re not allowed to say that word because I don’t like that word.”
But according to Tyra, she was told that the team was not racist. “It’s just a word, not a label.” (Really, girls? People have been beaten up for saying that word to the wrong person. Oh, wait! I’m getting ahead of myself.) Because she felt outnumbered, she let it go at that time. But Tyra also told BuffaloNews.com that it was pretty routine for the girls to make racial comments and jokes during practice, including ones about slavery, shackles, and “picking cotton.”
Tyra said that during a later practice scrimmage game, she and another teammate were getting rather heated with each other over some physical roughness on the court. She admits that in the heat of the moment she “said something dumb” at which point, one of her teammates called her “a black piece of sh*@!”
So, after weeks of inappropriate racial comments and the offensive comment from her teammate, Tyra admits that she got madder and madder over the weekend, and on Monday, when she saw the girl in school, she threw her into a locker, punching and choking her. She admits, “It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being singled out of the whole team.”
Tyra was suspended for five days for initiating a fight, and when her parents became angry that the school hadn’t done enough to find out why the fight had taken place to begin with, they called a local radio station and shared the whole story with the community.
Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro launched an investigation and released a statement, saying: “This type of insensitivity to one of our students is wrong, unacceptable, unfortunate, and will never, ever be tolerated.”
On Friday, Mondanaro announced the following disciplinary measures against the team for violating both the school’s conduct code and the extracurricular athletic code:
* All Kenmore East High School varsity girls’ basketball team practices have been suspended through the rest of this week.
* Saturday’s scheduled game against Olean has been postponed.
* The related team field trip to St. Bonaventure University has been canceled.
* The student athletes will all serve a one-game suspension by the end of the season, at games to be determined at a later date. It’s not expected that the girls would all be suspended for the same game, which would result in a forfeited game.
* Mondanaro is voluntarily rescinding last year’s Niagara Frontier League Sportsmanship Award for the entire school.
* Students who engaged in the chant will receive a two-day, out-of-school suspension.
* The student athletes will be required to participate in cultural sensitivity training, which is being arranged through an outside agency.
Additionally, Mondanaro personally apologized to Tyra and to her parents, and Kenmore East Principal Patrick Heyden apologized as well.
That is all well and good, but aren’t you left wondering how this type of behavior could have been going on for years without any faculty member, coach, administrator, or parent knowing about it?
Tyra said that her coach, Kristy Bondgren, did hear comments other players made about Tyra being black, although the girls apparently waited until all adults were out of the locker room before launching into their lovely chant. Isn’t that simple fact further evidence that these girls knew exactly what they were doing and that it was wrong? Otherwise, why wait for the coaches to leave before beginning the chant?
And if Bondgren was aware that racially-charged comments were being thrown around at practice, why didn’t she address this issue the first time she heard it? This whole incident might have been avoided if she had dealt with these comments immediately, rather than apparently turning a deaf ear to her team.
The whole thing has me wondering how such a tradition got started, and what made these girls ever think this was acceptable, much less related in any way to pumping each other up for a victory? Did the use of this word really mean nothing to them, or, based on other comments they purportedly had been making, is it indicative of their racial views?
Hard to say, but since the nasty story went public, students report that there has been a lot of racial tension, and the female varsity basketball players have been harassed and ostracized. Only two teammates have apologized to Tyra, who is now considering playing at the junior varsity level for one more year. She worries that it would be awkward for her to play with the team now, and she also expressed concern about her teammates playing other teams with black players.
“It just wouldn’t be safe,” she said. “There would be a lot of conflict going on.”
Gee, ya think?