In Oklahoma, an announcer during an online broadcast for a high school girls basketball game makes racist comments on a hot mic.
“They’re kneeling? (Expletive) (racial slur),” said Matt Rowan, the owner and operator of the streaming service OSPN, speaking about the Norman girls basketball team. “I hope Norman get their ass kicked. (Expletive) them. I hope they lose…They’re going to kneel like that? Hell no.”
Rowan later blamed his use of the slur on low blood sugar, which is now on the Mount Rushmore of excuses for using racist language, along with The Ambien Defense.
In Washington, D.C., at one of the best universities on the planet, a law professor openly muses in a recorded lecture about how her Black law students were inferior to students of other ethnicities.
“I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my lower ones are Blacks,” said Sandra Sellers, a Georgetown Law professor, referencing lower grades. “Happens almost every semester. And it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ It’s some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom, it drives me crazy.”
In Texas, a group commissioned by the University of Texas releases a report that declared the song “Eyes of Texas” had “no racist intent” despite certifying that its roots were from a minstrel show, which is about as racially intently as it gets.
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If there’s one thing this week showed us all about racism, it isn’t just that racism is a pernicious, persistent, at times untamable beast – most of us already knew that. It’s that racism remains so embedded in our lives, like a fattened tick cemented to a dog, particularly, and perhaps especially, in our education system.
We saw this across the American spectrum over the past few days, from that high school in Oklahoma, to a college in Texas, to a prestigious law school in Washington, D.C.
The common thread of all these stories was a stubborn type of racism that’s existed in the American education system for centuries and while there’s been progress, obviously, these latest examples demonstrate how parts of our education system are still mired in the cesspool of white nationalism.
These cases also show a universal truth and it’s that it’s always about race. That sentence will anger some of you. It will cause some of you to fire off letters or call me names. But it’s true. It’s long been true and it likely will be for some time.
There’s no other way to explain a grown man, blasting girls of color for protesting systemic racism by peacefully taking a knee during the anthem, calling those girls one of the ugliest words in the English language during the anthem that he believes is sacrosanct and deserves respect.
He didn’t see them for the kids they are. He saw them as Black objects, things to deride, not human. The players, or their actions, didn’t fit his ideal of what America should be.
These stories also have another commonality in how, at least anecdotally, there’s been a dramatic loss of inhibition. There’s always been racists, and loud ones, but Donald Trump’s open white nationalism granted a permission structure for bigoted people to crawl out of the sewer and express their beliefs openly and without fear. I’m sure Rowan thought he was simply following Trump’s lead.
Trump’s racist description of the coronavirus led to a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. It’s gotten so awful that President Joe Biden addressed the issue during a primetime address at the White House this week, where he marked the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic.
“They’re forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” Biden said. “It’s wrong. It’s un-American, and it must stop.”
The reason racism in the education system is such a vital battlefield in the fight to keep America from shapeshifting back to its segregationist roots, is because this is where young minds can be impacted the most.
If an announcer can lie to listeners that girls peacefully protesting are betraying the country, in his mind, he can influence others to feel the same way. A college law professor passes on her systemically racist beliefs about Black law students.
The University of Texas can use its power to create a commission who would go on to self-fulfill the belief that a song with racist roots isn’t racist.
In many ways, education is the key to ending racism. It cements us all in a fact-based world, and facts deprive hatred of oxygen.
Which is why racists keep lying about race. They don’t want education. They want hate.
Don’t let them win.