The world of athletic competition is often a proxy war for societal grievances. Race and athletics came crashing into one another during a Michigan high school basketball playoff game. They say to the victor go the spoils, and often those rewards include the right to talk smack to, and about, those who have been vanquished on the field of play. But when that smack descends into racism the entire media world is suddenly aghast. After defeating the mixed-race Grand Blanc boys’ basketball team in the Class A regional final last week, fans of the all-white Howell High School team took to Twitter and, as is often the case when provided the anonymity of social media, the face of racism and demagoguery were on full display. The following is but a small sampling.
"Not only did we beat Grand Blanc but we're all white. Howell's the definite winner tonight."
"All hail white power. #HitlerIsMyDad"
"Tonight was probably one of the most racists nights of my life. I heard so many slurs and expressions. I also said a few things…"
Hastags with other tweets included #kkk, #lightthehcross, #rosaparks, #wewhite.
School administrators at Howell high school say they are aware of the Tweets and disciplinary action has been taken. Here's what Grand Blanc school authorities had to say.
"It would be totally unfair to judge a district or a school based on the actions of individual students or supporters," he said in an email statement to The Flint Journal. "I have great confidence that no one in authority within the Howell School District would ever encourage or condone these types of sentiments and expect that they will effectively deal with this situation internally."
Locally, Howell is known to have a tenuous racial history. Former Klan member Robert E. Miles, who died in 1992, lived nearby and used to host KKK cross burning. Robyn Lefebvre is a lifelong resident of Howell and is aware of her home town’s racist past.
"(One of the alleged KKK leaders) died a while back, and I was hoping that whole thing would die along with him," she said. "It's very hard and frustrating when people can judge a whole town on the acts of just a few people.
But Grand Blanc senior guard Kevon Miller says the tweets are nothing new and didn’t surprise him. He spoke of two recent games against Howell in which he heard the dreaded N-word hurled from the student section several times. One incident even prompted a ref to address an offending member of the Howell student body. Apologies were provided by several Howell students via Twitter and everyone involved probably wishes the whole thing will just go away. But in America race continually rears its ugly head in part because people want to ignore the issue. But historic apathy toward race matters only seems to allow them to fester and eventually proliferate. In essence, we're damned if we discuss them but our descendants are damned if we don't.