Last Friday, a basketball game at Jefferson Township High School (JTHS) against Dover, a school with a student body that “is 80 percent Hispanic and African-American,” according to the Jefferson Patch, turned into much more than that after accusations of racism were revealed on a Facebook post.
The post claimed that the JTHS student fan section wore American themed clothing and President Donald Trump T-shirts, turned their backs on the other team when they entered, and chanted “ashy knees” at a Dover African-American player when he took foul shots. Later, it was reported that chants of “build the wall” came from some members of the fan section as well.
I wasn’t at the game, but this incident spread across the Internet, and I felt that I would be wrong not to address it, especially considering the reactions from some of the peers in my school.
Before I get to my opinion of the incident, I want to make it clear that I’m just one person with one opinion. I don’t speak on behalf of everyone, nor do I think I’m completely right, but the only way to get through this incident is to have a civil discussion about it and learn from it.
With that said, I implore you not to attack each other in the comments of this post nor any other post on social media. Instead, use this outlet as a place to hold a logical and thoughtful discussion and to listen to each other rather than persistently claim that the other side is entirely wrong.
The three complaints that the original post contained were about the fan section’s theme, students turning their backs on the opposing team, and the racist comments chanted by some of the fans. The theme itself was harmless. The students planned the American theme before they knew who they were playing against, and it had the potential to be a moment of patriotism. However, this theme sat sourly in some of the attendees’ mouths because some of the students wore Trump T-shirts.
The students who wore these T-shirts had the right to wear whatever they wanted to, but this understandably bothered some people. Some people believe that Donald Trump could be seen as a symbol of racism.
To make the parents and supporters of the Dover basketball team more uncomfortable, the JTHS fan section turned their backs to the opposing team when they entered. Many defended this action by saying that they do this all the time, but to an outside viewer who doesn’t know this, it can be perceived as unsportsmanlike.
However, the American theme with a few Trump T-shirts in a sea of red, white, and blue, and the fan section turning its back to the opposing team wasn’t enough of a reason for this incident to make the headlines. These complaints only added to the discomfort and outrage expressed by many of the attendees. The real reason this event wasn’t left in the past was because of the racist comments. The real issue and the only grounds for a real complaint were the chants of “ashy knees” and “build the wall” coming from a few of the students in the fan section.
The only thing I will not change my mind about is that the racist comments were utterly wrong. Regardless of who said them or what the other team’s fans said or anything else, racism is racism. It’s disgusting, despicable, and intolerable. This is a universal truth that I don’t believe anyone can deny.
Despite this universal truth, there has still been some debate over this issue. The first argument is that people from Dover, both during the game and online after the game, called the JTHS students “white trash” and said they should “go in a corner and kill’” themselves. Although they may have insulted and attacked JTHS students, this doesn’t excuse the actions of those who chanted “ashy knees” and “build the wall.”
The people from Dover who made these comments, in a fit of rage, did exactly what they were upset about. They started generalizing all of Jefferson and attacking them for their stereotypical differences. However, similarly to the few JTHS students who shouted racist remarks at the basketball game, the people from Dover who attacked and insulted JTHS students only make up a small portion of the entirety of Dover and don’t represent the town as a whole.
Regardless of how many people were doing this from Dover, it doesn’t suddenly make the racially charged chants from a few at JTHS acceptable. If anything, it just makes both of these small groups of people wrong. Any attacks or insults to someone, especially based on one’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, are unacceptable and not the way to solve the issue.
Another argument is that the media is getting too much involved in the issue and that they should drop it, but they are just doing their job. They’re reporting on the events that are going on around us, and this is what they’re supposed to do because they’re reporters.
Above all, the most frequent complaint I’ve heard is that some students believe that the school is blowing this incident out of proportion and that everyone is being hypersensitive to the situation. By saying this, they are essentially reducing racism to nothing more than people being overly sensitive, but racism is more than that. Racism is both the remains of the slavery and mistreatment from our past and the stepping stone to possible oppression in our future.
If we, as a town, as a community, and as citizens of a nation that holds the fundamental idea that “all men are created equal,” let this incident go without reacting to it, what kind of precedent does that set for our future? If we ignore the outspoken racism of a few people now, what’s to prevent it from happening again later?
Racism isn’t a matter of political correctness, it’s a matter of our nation’s values and the influence of our future actions. We must “blow this out of proportion.” We must emphasize that we will not allow racism in our communities. We must stop it now before it happens again.
Currently, the JTHS administration and the Jefferson Township Superintendent, Dr. Patrick Tierney, are investigating the situation and working closely with the Dover Superintendent, Robert Becker. On Monday, the principal of JTHS, Dr. Timothy Plotts, addressed the issue to the students of each class and asserted that he will not tolerate this behavior.
You may also like: Tierney Makes Statement Regarding Basketball Game
Dr. Tierney posted a message Monday afternoon, stating that “the actions of a few have now tarnished the reputation of an outstanding student body, school, and community and for that, I am very sorry.” Dr. Tierney hopes “to use this unfortunate situation as a ‘teachable’ moment.”
I not only support the actions made by the JTHS administration and the superintendent, but I fully endorse them. They are doing everything they should to right the wrongs made Friday night and prevent this act of racism, bullying, and hate from occurring again.
Although, for most of us, these actions were not our own, we can still learn from this. As Dr. Tierney wrote, students often “make poor choices” but “as adults, we should be modeling appropriate behavior.” Although I agree with this, I think that this should extend past the adults in our community. I think it should extend to our peers as well as our leaders to be respectful and embrace all walks of life.
It’s evident that if students at JTHS are still being influenced into making racist comments as they did on Friday, then racism is still an issue. If a generation of children who were born past the Civil Rights Movement and race riots in the fifties and the sixties, then clearly they are still somehow inheriting the racism that some people believe we’ve left in our past. Although it’s not the same issue as it was decades ago, people are still being judged for the color of their skin, as well as other qualities they can’t control. What we can learn from this is that there is still progress to be made, and the JTHS administration is doing exactly that by steering us in the right direction.
Despite this incident though, I don’t hate this town. We’re not all racists, and most of us are good, warm-hearted individuals who try their best to make the world a better place than it was yesterday. Our students raise funds for children in need, raise awareness about human trafficking, and so much more. We’re a community constantly striving for improvement and success. Don’t let this incident fool you; Jefferson is still an amazing place full of great people. No one incident of misguided individuals can change that.
Editorial by Kalen Luciano, Columnist, The Jefferson Chronicle