A group of California high school students were reportedly suspended for wearing American-flag-printed bandanas and chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!” at a local basketball game. The students were accused of racism as they stood in the stands at the game and chanted in support of their team. Due to complaints from others, the school’s principal has since rescinded their suspension but says “the incident is far from over.”
The four students, who attend Camarillo High School in the Oxnard Union School District, were allegedly initially suspended for their patriotic apparel and chanting, which school officials feared was “racist.”
While school officials have been criticized for their disciplinary actions in this case, Gabe Soumakian reported to Fox News that the issue isn’t about patriotism. It’s about inclusion. Soumakian’s concern as school district superintendent is that the students’ actions had a racial undertones since both the schools involved in the basketball game have large Hispanic populations.
“We wanted to make sure whatever was being cheered was appropriate,” he said. “We are responding to a global issue in terms of how students should be respecting the other school,” notes Soumakian.
“We wanted to make sure [their actions weren’t] racially motivated, and I told the kids I just want to be sensitive to the feelings of everybody,” said school principal Glenn Lipman. “If we’re doing it for patriotism, that’s fine. But if we’re doing it for something else that’s racially motivated, I’m not going to allow that.”
The students involved, however, say that racism wasn’t part of the incident at all. “We’ve done it always,” one of the students said. “It’s something we do. It’s the same group of friends. We’re all very patriotic.” The four students gained support from their peers: More than 100 students gathered by the school’s flagpole the following morning to protest in patriotic clothing.
“They have to respect everyone,” Soumakian warned. “When you go to a game – you cheer for your team and you don’t make any derogatory comments or make inappropriate comments toward the other team.”
“We have a very diverse student body in the district,” he added.
“As a superintendent I think we need to pursue this further,” he said. “We need to work with teachers and students and the community about the concept of cultural proficiency.”
He said cultural proficiency is “understanding how to work, live, be and understand the heritage and be respectful.”
The problem, according to blogger Jenny Erikson, is that the students were chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A!” Even if a large portion of the student body is of Hispanic origin, they still live and learn in America. They should be patriotic too. Erikson writes:
“How about this for cultural proficiency: It’s the freaking United States of America! Teach the students, especially those that may come from immigrant backgrounds, that this country rocks, and they should take some pride in it. Kids participating in school sport and taking pride in their country are not the teenagers we need to worry about.”
The blogger goes on to say that, not only are the school administrators taking the situation too far, the situation “cheapens and degrades the term racism.”
“Racism is treating people differently because of their race — making black children go to separate schools and sit at the back of the bus. It means that you think you’re better than other people because your race is better than their race. It labels people by their skin color, instead of valuing them for the heart, mind, and soul underneath their physical appearance,” Erikson writes.
Do you think that racism plays a part here?