[CONTENT NOTE: descriptions of racist taunts and anti-LGBTQ+ vandalism; no anti-Black or anti-LGBTQi+ images]
You know, I never have to look far for content to post for Black History Month. Hell, I don’t even have to look at all: it’s in my news feeds, social media and email inbox every single day. And this is just as true when it’s not Black History Month. Sometimes the content is indescribably beautiful, deeply moving and inspiring (like yesterday), even within the context of the unfathomable Black struggle and pain surrounding it.
This is not one of those posts.
via lohud.com (bold emphasis mine, except headings and photo captions):
Racist taunts at Pearl River basketball game shock community, bring calls for action
Probe called for by Nyack superintendent into fan behavior Wednesday night. Legislator calls for disciplinary action against involved Pearl River students.
Rockland/Westchester Journal News
Published 2:40pm ET Feb. 11, 2022 / Updated 5:03pm Feb. 11, 2022
Nyack’s varsity basketball team captain Harrison Jordan and teammate Kameron Kukielczak were on the court Wednesday night when they heard noises from the crowd. Fans in the Pearl River gym were making noises – monkey and ape noises – as a Black player readied to take a free-throw shot from the foul line.
“It happened three different times,” said Jordan, a senior. “You hear it but you don’t believe it.”
Kukielczak, a sophomore, said he anticipated a lively home crowd for Pearl River. But not that.
School superintendents in both Pearl River and Nyack have expressed outrage at the fans’ behavior at a varsity basketball Pirates home game.
Outrage alone, though, is not enough, school leaders in both districts have said.
No, it’s not. It’s a good place to start, though.
Nyack Superintendent Eudes Budhai is calling for a formal inquiry into the incident by Section 1 athletics. He said Friday that he has had several discussions with Pearl River Superintendent Marco Pochintesta about the incident since a video of the racist calls were shared via Twitter on Thursday by RedHawks BBall, @NYACKHSHOOPS, a fan account.
I dreaded clicking on that linked Twitter account, because when all you know is that a video has been posted of racist acts, you cannot assume it was done by someone who condemns it, or by someone who celebrates it. My dread, though, is not the point. My dread is really just empathy: the hope that what I find there doesn’t do more harm to the same people who were already hurt. It’s not even the barest sliver of the dread Black people feel when they follow any link to a space they do not know is safe for them, let alone anti-racist. This time, we’re all in luck. The Tweeter who posted the video clip said:
Allowing monkey noises to echo through a gymnasium while an African American player shoots free throws, sanctions racism and hatred. Pearl River missed the mark to correct abhorrent behavior. Stop the Game. Remove the Offenders. Do Better!
if you want to see and hear the video, a link to the Tweet including the video is here. You may also be interested in later Tweets to that account, which among other non-racist posts show student and community support for the team.
Pochintesta said Friday that the Rockland County Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance & Education and Haverstraw African American Connection would present their program “Better Together” to a group of Pearl River students on March 4.
The superintendent was meeting with Nyack NAACP representatives on Friday afternoon.
Pochintesta confirmed that there were similar calls from the student section during the Jan 28 game against Suffern.
THIS WAS NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT. And however it was addressed on or after January 28 – IF it was addressed – was obviously insufficient to preclude it from happening again almost two weeks later.
Dr. Marco Pochintesta Pearl River Schools superintendent at district headquarters Feb. 11, 2022. He spoke at a press conference regarding racist taunting by Pearl River High basketball fans.
(image: Peter Carr/The Journal News)
Nyack school board President Terence Rock pointed out that school activities always have a security and staff presence. “At some point, everyone recognized something was wrong,” said Rock, who didn’t attend the game. “Why didn’t any of them say, ‘Stop, hey who did that,’ and ask them to leave.”
“Pearl River needs to let us know why that didn’t happen,” Rock said.
“The first step is that Pearl River holds themselves accountable,” the Nyack superintendent said. “We can help.”
Eudes Budhai, far right, Nyack superintendent of schools, meets with Beth Davidson, school board Vice President and Terence Rock, board president at district headquarters in Central Nyack Feb. 11, 2022.
(image: Peter Carr/The Journal News)
So. Mr. Eudes Budhai, the Nyack superindendent who appears to be a Person of Color or of mixed racial heritage, says “We can help.” It’s true that we have no indication here of how he actually identifies racially. However, when he says “we,” he is clearly speaking on behalf of the board’s vice president Ms. Davidson who is obviously white and board president Mr. Rock who is obviously Black.
Does everyone see the problem with this? It’s that one, maybe two, Black people are volunteering their assistance to help a white counterpart address the egregious anti-Black racism among students in his high school, after it happened a second time. The sentiment that “we can help” is an absolutely astonishing act of generosity. And the motivation behind it is undoubtedly a noble one: to help neighboring high school students become more inclusive and less racist in their outlook.
But this endeavor is likely doomed. Why? Because of the simple fact that Black people cannot eradicate anti-Black racism for white people. If they could do so, don’t you think it would be long buried in the ancient past of human history? (And if women could end misogyny and patriarchy, well…you see where I’m going with this.) Anti-Black racism is a white disease, and whites are the only ones who can cure it.
This means that Dr. Pochintesta has to do his own anti-racist work, as does every non-Black student, parent, teacher and community member in the Pearl River district. Black people cannot do it for them. And even if they could, how is it their responsibility?
In my own anti-racist work, I have done a lot of listening to Black people in my personal life, my professional life, in online spaces and those who step up publicly and engage with the world through writing books or making art, music or films. Seeking out Black voices and perspectives is not difficult AT ALL. In fact I am confident that Dr. Pochintesta has, and has always had, the ability and resources to do this much for himself and for the students at Pearl River schools.
But that is not doing the work. Yes, beginning the work requires a basic knowledge and common understanding of history and facts – which is precisely why racist conservatives are shrieking like tantruming toddlers about teaching factual American history in public schools. The work is the ongoing commitment to the deep self-reflection that is required in light of those facts and that history. The work is sitting with the discomfort when Black voices challenge you on your ignorance or your privilege, and rigorously self-interrogating until you discover what it is, exactly, that makes you so uncomfortable with the truth – or worse, makes you defensive.
It is the rare conservative indeed that can bear to do any of this. And none of it can be done for anyone else. That is why no matter what BIPOC do to “help” us, we whites are 100% on our own. We have to hold ourselves personally accountable. To convince ourselves otherwise is to allow anti-Black racism to recede into the shadows of our communities, to hide even within ourselves. Of course, Black people and anyone else can help us to appear less racist when they hold us accountable. But if we’re not doing so ourselves, we are not doing the necessary work. And is that what we want? To appear less racist to others, and even to ourselves? Really?
I’m not sure what the solution is. I just know it is not in the hands of Black people. Not one little bit.
‘Behavior will not be tolerated’
This was the fourth documented discriminatory incident this academic year at Pearl River High School. In previous incidents, a Gay Straight Trans Alliance billboard and items symbolizing LGBTQ pride were vandalized.
Gosh, it’s really shocking that the same school culture that produces monkey sounds when a Black basketball player stands at the free throw line is also anti-LGBTQ+. What are the chances of that?! Well, at least the odds of misogyny also infecting that school culture must be pretty remote.
Pochintesta acknowledged the pattern in a letter Thursday to the community.
“This behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstances and the students involved will be addressed through the District’s Code of Conduct,” the letter stated.
Except it has been tolerated. How’s that District Code of Conduct been working? By the way, those anti-LGBTQ+ incidents started during the first week of school, back in September.
Nyack boys varsity basketball coach Ethan Smith called Wednesday’s incident “somewhat surreal.”
Smith said he and his players were aware of what was going on. He said the Pearl River staff missed a “teachable moment.” They could have stopped the game, he said, and thrown out the offending fans.
I guess that play isn’t in the District Code of Conduct.
Pearl River school district is 2% Black, 16% Hispanic or Latino, and 76% white, according to New York State Education Department data. Nyack schools are 16% Black, 26% Hispanic or Latino, and 42% white.
Rockland, though, is a small county, and kids involved in sports cross paths – in youth leagues, summer camps, other activities.
“You think you know these people,” Jordan said. “Then they do something like this.”
BOOM. You do not know these people. Frankly, they may not even know themselves.
Focus on incident
Pearl River has been under a spotlight since video of the incident spread across social media.
Many pointed to the added insult that the incident took place during Black History Month.
Assemblyman Michael Lawler, whose district includes Pearl River and part of the Nyack school community, said he supported Pochintesta’s efforts hold participants accountable for “this abhorrent behavior, as well as his broader effort to ensure it does not happen again.”
I think he means “ensure it does not happen again, again.”
“As a community, we must speak in one voice and make it clear that what occurred at the the basketball game is unacceptable, wrong,” the Suffern Republican said, “and will not be tolerated.”
“It makes us look bad to get caught doing this in public!”
State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick called Wednesday’s behavior by the crowd “disgusting.”
The Nyack Democrat urged “appropriate disciplinary action” for any Pearl River students involved. “This incident illustrates why schools must engage in thoughtful conversations about racism, and not let a noisy minority stop needed dialogue.”
Minority, huh? Citation needed.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said “the actions of a few do not define the mindset of the many,” and called the behavior “racist and reprehensible.”
The actions of a few may very well reflect the mindset of the many. Especially the mindsets of those who do not know their own minds, because they have not done the work.
“As a former youth coach myself it’s particularly disturbing to see our young people subjected to (this) type of racist abuse,” said Day, a Republican.
Wonder if he has kids? And exposes them to FoxNews at home?
U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones pointed to “multiple incidents of racism and homophobia at Pearl River High School.”
“It’s clear that we must do more to teach our students about the history of racism, homophobia, and other discrimination in this country,” the Democrat said. “I hope this will serve as a teachable moment for those who have so loudly urged the banning of aspects of American history in our classrooms. If we learn from our history, we can avoid repeating the mistakes of our past and create a better future for all our children.”
Hahaha. I love Mondaire, but…as if.
Pearl River school officials said Friday that attendance would be limited at two games Friday night – a hockey game against Nyack and boys varsity basketball against Nanuet. Only two adults per player would be let in.
Dear Lard, not the adults! Where the fuck do you think these kids get taught racism?
The short (2:27) video accompanying the article is not nearly as informative or comprehensive as the article itself, but worth watching if only to see and hear Kameron Kukielczak, a target of the taunting.
Day 1 of Black History Month 2022 (Lori Teresa Yearwood) is here.
Day 2 (Mallence Bart-Williams) is here.
Day 3 (Emmett Till) is here.
Day 4 (A Tale of Two Citizens) is here.
Day 5 (Trayvon Martin) is here.
Day 6 (Franchesca Ramsey) is here.
Day 7 (National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the Black Aids Institute) is here.
Day 8 (extreme racial disparities in marijuana arrests) is here.
Day 9 (Summer of Soul/1969 Harlem Cultural Festival) is here.
Day 10 (current and historic racist domestic terrorism, Steve Phillips/Democracy in Color) is here.
Day 11 (Gee’s Bend Quilters) is here.