We hear it frequently: Racism is in the past. Why can’t we all move on? America used to have a race problem but that was a long time ago and everyone is treated equally now. Get over it.
Then we get slapped upside the head by a racist, hateful, ignorant post on social media, and we are reminded yet again just how delusional those notions are. African-Americans, and many white people, cannot “move on” because “America’s original sin” – racism and white privilege – undeniably persists to this day.
The latest episode came Monday, when a white Ardrey Kell High School basketball player posted a virulent message on Snapchat before the school’s playoff loss to nearly all-black West Charlotte High. There was nothing equivocal about it; it used profanity, the n-word, a message of violence and a reference to playing “in the hood.”
It had a shock factor for some white people, but came as no surprise to many African-Americans. Such messages are all around us, even if some of us can’t or won’t see them. They don’t necessarily get the attention that one from a star basketball player in the playoffs gets. But they are constantly simmering just beneath the surface and, increasingly, above the surface and in your face. If you don’t believe it, ask someone who looks different from you.
Ardrey Kell, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the player’s parents, thankfully, all had the appropriate reaction to the racist message. No one tried to dismiss it or defend it. Ardrey Kell suspended the player indefinitely and CMS issued a statement saying, “racist behavior and actions are repugnant to educational ideals” and will not be tolerated.
The player’s parents responded in a way that was wholly fitting but, in these times, not guaranteed. They described their son’s words as inexcusable and they supported the school’s decision to suspend him.
“As a family, we are devastated and so is (the player). … Being part of a diverse community is significant to our values as a family, but it is clear from today that there are more conversations to be had…
Their son “is ashamed and deeply sorrowful for his word choice. … There is no excuse for words like this.”
In 2017, Ardrey Kell students yelled racial threats at a visiting black middle school student at a football game. That prompted a one-day exchange between Ardrey Kell students and West Charlotte students to broaden their perspective. CMS schools’ rapid return to extreme segregation over the past couple of decades has done nothing to better prepare students for the endlessly diverse country and world they will be living in.
We were glad to see no tension at Tuesday night’s game between Ardrey Kell and West Charlotte. That delivers a message of unity to this community when it badly needs it.
The player’s parents expressed hope that their son, their family and the community will grow from this episode. We share that hope, but also know how far we still have to go.