It’s OK To Throw The First Punch, As Long As The Other Person Said “Nigger”

I find it sad that we as a society let words have so much power over us.  After all, they’re only words.  I have written before about sexual harassment, specifically in the Navy, and the fact that it is the responsibility of the offended party to tell the other person when they have gone too far.  The same can be said of any language.  No word is so inherently bad that, absent all context, it should automatically considered to be racist.  Racism lives in the mind of the person speaking the word, and can only truly be discerned by their actions toward persons of other races.  If they treat all people equally, at least in schools and other public facilities, then no offense has been committed.

So what exactly happened at Kenmore East (New York) High School?  From Yahoo:

“The whole team before our game has a ritual of saying 1-2-3 and then the N word,” says Tyra Batts, the only African-American member of her Buffalo-area high school team. “It’s a tradition that’s been going on for years.”

When Batts joined the team this year, with dreams of going on to play college basketball, she noticed her teammates would secretly huddle up for the alarmingly racist chant before every game.

“I would argue about it and say to not say it,” Batts said in a home video submitted to the Buffalo News, “and they would tell me they’re not racist, it’s just a word. There was nothing I could do much before the game because I was outnumbered.”
After confronting one of her teammates, she says she was verbally attacked with another racial slur. After that, the confrontation got physical and Batts was suspended for five days for initiating a fight. “It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being singled out of the whole team,” she said.

When school officials didn’t dig around enough to find out why the fight took place, Batts’ parents called a local radio station and shared her story with the community. Finally, the school got a clue. Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro launched an inquiry and released a statement saying: “This type of insensitivity to one of our students is wrong, unacceptable, unfortunate, and will never, ever be tolerated.” By Friday, the students who allegedly engaged in the chant were suspended for two days and the entire team was penalized with canceled practices, a game suspension and the return of a sportsmanship award earned last year.

But Batts isn’t satisfied. There’s the fact that she’s considering not playing on the basketball team anymore, and she’s still being penalized with three more days of suspension than her teammates. “I’m getting a lot of feedback that the team should be suspended for more than two days, longer than I have, because I actually fought for a reason,” she said. “I didn’t just do it out of nowhere.”

There are two important points that need to made here.  First, and again, just as with sexual harassment, Ms. Batts could have gone to school officials and her parents to complain about the “offensive” (explanation of quotations later) chant.  If that didn’t work, she could have contacted the media.  The fact that she did so AFTER the fight is a clear indication that she had access.  Finally, what is the story behind that chant?  How is it that a bunch of New York teenagers ended up shouting “nigger” in the locker room before each basketball game?  Here’s what both Yahoo and MSNBC left out of their coverage of the story (from the Buffalo News):

The N-word chant that won the Kenmore East High School girls varsity basketball team notoriety this week apparently began as a joke between two teammates — one of them white and the other black.

The chant was born two to five years ago, depending on whom you ask, said Principal Patrick Heyden. Though the students who originated the chant are no longer on the team, the bizarre locker room rally cry continued to be uttered by subsequent players, he said.

“They’re not overt racists,” said Heyden, who conducted the school investigation with other administrators and interviewed the current players. “They adopted a stupid practice that carried down over the years.”

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2 thoughts on “It’s OK To Throw The First Punch, As Long As The Other Person Said “Nigger”

    • Nobody can ask anybody else to change what is in their hearts and minds, only how they treat others, otherwise we end up having “thought police”. I hate to break it to you, but it is perfectly acceptable to be a racist, as long as one does not OVERTLY act on their racist views in government funded institutions like schools and courthouses. That said, if you read the original Buffalo News article at http://www.buffalonews.com/city/communities/tonawanda/article665195.ece (which does not seek comment from any of the other girls), it does not seem like at any time Ms. Batts was denied any opportunities at her school, either academic or athletic. She also admits she “said something dumb,” which led to the fight, but not whether that something dumb had racial overtones.

      The main point here is that the origin of the chant was NOT racist in nature. In fact, if everyone in America would start greeting each other as “nigger” with a smile and a handshake, it would take the power away from the word. It seems that was exactly what the two girls, one black and one white, who started the chant in the first place were trying to do.

      Have a nice day, nigger!

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