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Football coach fired amid allegations of racist behavior (update)

A football coach in South Carolina has been relieved of his position following complaints from opposing teams that say he encouraged his players to engage in racist behavior.

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Good morning, everyone. Just checking, is it still 2014? It is? Great! If that’s the case, can someone please explain to me how a grown-ass adult in South Carolina didn’t see why it would be an issue if he encouraged the kids on his football team to taunt their black opponents with “monkey sounds” and a watermelon-smashing ritual that involved drawing a “Sambo” face on the fruit before smashing it to bits?


Bud Walpole, the football coach in question, didn’t see a problem with it, and now he’s out of a job. This follows the investigation of a complaint made by a parent of one of the players on a team that players at Academic Magnet — the school Walpole was coaching at — would make “animalistic or monkey-like chants” post-game. They also kept a watermelon with that oh-my-gosh-guys-totally-not-racist-how-dare-you face you see up there drawn on it, which they would smash after a victory.

People are already upset. The “it’s just harmless fun, stop pulling the race card” folks are out in full force. If you don’t know why monkeys and watermelons are both instances of imagery entrenched in racism, I’d like to suggest that you use this brand new invention called the internet to look it up.

I’m not willing to give Walpole the benefit of the doubt. If you want to be a bigot, fine. When you make children the target of your bigotry and encourage other children to participate in leveling that bigotry at their peers, then it’s time for you to go away.

I went to a very mixed high school, race-wise, and at every sporting event, there was always an all-white or predominantly white team more than willing to bust out a great chant that made frequent use of the “N-word,” all while a coach looked on, smilingly.

I remember even as teenagers, we would ask why no one made them stop. People forget, sometimes, that high schoolers are still very young. These are things that are capable of denigrating and hurting an adult, so yes, they do incredible damage to kids. Talking about race with your kids is uncomfortable and you might not know where to start, but you have to. I think it’s clear you have to address things like racist imagery, too, so that one day when they get older, they don’t think it’s totally fine to hoot like an ape at their black peers.

I would be pissed if I found out my child was participating in this kind of crap, and she would have hell to pay at home if she did. I would also want the garbage “adult” person who led the charge, particularly if they were in a mentor role, to have to own up to their dickery, too.

The superintendent in this situation, Dr. Nancy McGinley, agrees, saying in a statement that, “It is our conclusion that the accountability lies with the adults. That the perceptions and the practices that were part of this ritual were not something that the adults should have sanctioned, and therefore we took action yesterday.”

Because yes, I might be able to buy, for a split second, that a bunch of kids don’t really understand why this isn’t OK. But a middle aged man in, of all places, South Carolina? Nope. Also, nope.

I understand that I might get hammered here for being “too PC”, but that’s OK. I prefer to think of it as “meeting the absolute baseline for human decency”, but if you’d rather fight for your right as an American to compare black folk to monkeys and draw racist faces on watermelon, you go ahead and do that. Maybe just don’t bring kids into it.

Update 10-23-2014: As of today, Bud Walpole will resume his coaching duties with Academic Magnet. Superintendent McGinley asked Walpole for a statement of commitment, which he provided, and hopes the events can be used as a “teachable moment.” Walpole used the statement to commit to being “extra vigilant when dealing with others of different racial or ethnic backgrounds.” Let’s hope he follows through.

More on race and kids

Alabama elementary teacher makes white kids cops and black kids Michael Brown
Why you can’t just tell black boys to be good and stay out of trouble
Teaching kids about racial and cultural diversity

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