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Opinion: There is No Place, No Room For Racism; We Must all Work to Prevent it

End Racism

There is no place for racism. Intentional or unintentional.

What the great student-athletes of Farrell, their school, and their community have had to endure over the past five days is just awful. And it is uncalled for. It wasn’t right in 1953, and it sure the heck isn’t right in 2023.

First, a few students at Jamestown decided to wear bonnets or sleep caps as part of a “pajama-themed” night at the Muskies volleyball game against Farrell on Sept. 28.

The Farrell student-athletes and representatives rightfully took offense to this considering bonnets were long associated with enslaved women and, according to PBS New York, many historians have pointed out that head-wraps were seen by their white European masters as a sign of poverty and subordination,

On Friday, Sept. 29, The Jamestown School District said it did a thorough investigation of the incident – although one wonders how “thorough” an investigation could be that took less than 12 hours to complete – and determined the students involved “had no intentional or malicious intent.”

That may be true, but at the very least some very poor or uninformed (and this is a bigger issue than anyone wants to talk about) judgment was used.

Farrell superintendent Lora Adams-King wasn’t buying the Jamestown investigation and called for the PIAA to conduct its own.

“While we acknowledge Jamestown School District’s response and purported investigation into the incident occurring at a girls’ varsity volleyball match, we feel that it is in the best interests of our student-athletes to move forward with filing a formal complaint with the governing bodies to ensure that a complete and unbiased investigation is done,” Adams-King said. “We simply cannot stand by and allow for such flagrant conduct to be excused as unintentional.”

If the incident on Thursday wasn’t bad enough, a follow-up incident on Tuesday, Oct. 3, took things to an entirely different level.

A social media post showing the bodies of black athletes with the faces of white boys replacing the original faces was allegedly made by a Lakeview student.

That post was deemed to be “inappropriate” and “racist” by the Lakeview School District, which unlike Jamestown’s wishy-washy response took full responsibility saying it was “deeply troubled and saddened to address a recent incident in which an inappropriate and racist video was posted by a student. We take this matter extremely seriously and are committed to fostering a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment for all members of our community.”

Good for Lakeview for taking immediate action and recognizing the seriousness of the issue.

Good for Lakeview head football coach Bill Hickman who told the Ken Moyer Sports Page that the student involved in posting has been “permanently kicked off his football team” even though the student was properly a member of the junior high team.

That may seem like a harsh response. But it isn’t. It is the exact type of response that is needed when these actions take place.

Good for Farrell for basically saying enough is enough.

Unfortunately, part of that was Farrell postponing its volleyball match with Rocky Grove on Tuesday, Oct. 3, because of the “racial” climate and “hate speech” its community was receiving. In addition, the junior high football game with Lakeview was canceled and awarded as a forfeit to Farrell.

Yes, in 2023, a school district believed it was necessary to keep its student-athletes from competing because having them compete may have put them in harm’s way.

Now it’s time for the PIAA to step in. It’s time to let schools and athletes know that if they are going to be racists then they have no place in the PIAA.

If that means disallowing student-athletes from participating in the PIAA, so be it.

If that means punishment, including postseason bans, for schools where these incidents take place, so be it.

Racism is deplorable. There is really nothing else to be said in that matter. And it should NEVER take place. There is no excuse for it. It is long past time when anyone can say “Well, we just didn’t know any better”.

It is hard to believe that we are really back to a society where people believe it is okay to put racism on display in a public venue, but we are. It’s bad enough in private but in public is deplorable.

We had seemingly moved beyond that dark period in our country’s history.

But we obviously haven’t moved beyond that period. Why is that?

That is the question every single one of us should be asking today. We should be asking why we have gotten back to a place where people think it is okay to put racism out in the open.

Now the question is, how do we go about fixing it? Because it needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed yesterday.

We cannot tolerate a society that disrespects each other on the notion of skin color. We tried that once. It was an abject failure, as it should have been. We cannot go back to it now.

It is up to parents to teach their kids that racism is wrong. It is up to our schools to teach kids that racism is wrong. It is up to our communities to teach kids (and adults) that racism is wrong. It is up to all of us to teach kids (and adults) that racism is wrong.

And most of us are doing exactly that. But, obviously, more work needs to be done. If the job was done then we wouldn’t have seen the two incidents we have seen in the last week.

We all need to get better. We all need to understand that actions have consequences. We all need to understand that love beats hate every time.

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