Disrespect Your Opponents, Town, Selves
This week, we have the Clarence Middle School girls’ lacrosse team suspended and punished for apparently hurling some ethnic/racial slurs at their opponents during a lacrosse game against Sweet Home. While there seems to be an allegation and multiple denials, we’ll never know precisely what was said or by whom.
In fact, I’ve heard from kids who attend the Middle School that it was Sweet Home kids who were calling Clarence girls – some of whom on the lacrosse team are Black – names. Based on that, perhaps Sweet Home should also suspend its team.
Both events are absolutely deplorable. This sort of behavior – this sort of thinking – is completely unacceptable and inexcusable in 2012 America. The Lovejoy harassers of the Coopers operate under the same hateful mindset as a girl who would yell “ni**er!” at any opponent in a game. I know we can never be free from racial animus, but it’s important to point it out and criticize it when it happens.
Kids aren’t born racist; it’s something they learn from their parents and their peers. These incidents remind us that racial animus and ignorance transcend geography, wealth, and class.
But in comparing the Lovejoy incident and this Clarence story, there are two stark differences – in the community response to hatred. While neighbors and politicians in Lovejoy went out of their way to downplay the abuse of the Coopers, and try to pin as much blame on the victims as possible, the Clarence school administration immediately punished the lacrosse team. Although no one admitted to having hurled racial epithets at the team from Sweet Home, the Clarence school superintendent said, “[w]e determined there is evidence to believe that the allegations have merit.”
A four-game suspension isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t jail or a school suspension. It’s a time out, during which these girls will learn that it’s completely inappropriate – even when engaged in two-sided trash talking – to call someone a “ni**er” under any circumstances. Or any racial epithet, for that matter. These girls aren’t even in high school, and they’re learning a very important lesson about what is and is not acceptable in a civilized society. If we’re going to take this seriously, then let’s take it seriously.