Racism rears its ugly head in Buffalo

By Roland Rogers,BASN CEO
Updated: December 14, 2011

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Tara Batts

Tara Batts

BUFFALO, NY,(BASN) When I read the story of the Kenmore East High School girls varsity basketball players being suspended and face other sanctions for using a racial slur as part of their regular pregame locker room chant I thought it was abhorrent. This insidious practice apparently had been going on for years since I was a kid.

The team’s only African-American player this year, sophomore Tyra Batts, said she was shocked when she learned of the tradition before the team’s opening game against another High School last Friday “I said, ‘You’re not allowed to say that word because I don’t like that word,’” she recalled. “They said, ‘you know we’re not racist, Tyra. It’s just a word, not a label.’ I was outnumbered.

Teammates would hold hands before their games, say a prayer together, and then yell “One, two, three [N-word]!” before running out onto the court, according to offended students.

Kenmore New York is on the outskirts of Buffalo. Too many incidences of overt racism and prejudice finally convinced me I needed to leave and move to greener pastures and discover how the rest of world was living. Much to my chagrin and in denial, I never wanted to believe my beloved “Nickle” was a bastion on racial hatred, where “white privilege” like every other place in America, ruled.

One year I found out big time! I vividly remember ‘white flight’ to the suburbs was in full swing. One my best friends upon moving into our new neighborhood, Sonny Early, came out to play and informed me his family had decided to move out of the hood in to the suburbs. With gentrification, cross burnings on people lawns I didn’t understand then and felt deeply hurt but realize now in retrospect the superiority complex white’s harbored toward black folks.

I went to a prominently Jewish high school and found that playing sports and singing acted as a diversion that prepared me for a life devoid of educational substance. I had a penchant for history, and my second-class status as student-athlete gave me taste of equality even if it failed to prepare me for a meaningful life down the road while denying access through normal societal channels. Our student body was an eclectic group, Buffalo’s answer to integration, where one’s ethnicity worked together to dismantle the last vestiges of segregation.

I hated high school in those days. I remember a time around my senior prom I was dating a Ukrainian women who I asked if she would be my date even though it was understood I would be punished if I showed up. The powers wanted me know how integration with white girls would not be tolerated. The night of the prom I was prepared for anything, I thought, but as we walked through the door I was faced with a gauntlet of all my white teachers and principal who were determine to give a life lesson I would never forget. I was a marginal student, spoiled brat, youngest of a family whose racial arrogance defied all logic.

That June while taking my Spanish exam I had an eerie feeling my teacher, who became a little on edgy at I entered the room. I needed one point on my exam to graduate, a point I never receive and denied me my diploma and graduation along with suffering humiliation with my friends and family insuring me a summer on punishment, ridicule and summer school.

Today I look at racism through duel lenses. Some times while walking through the streets of Harlem I’ll catch a glimpse of a black people not approving of my choice of a partner.

I understand what Tyra Batts must have thought about all those days at practice and participating with students who have never considered what life might look like on the other side of the rainbow.

Today I am an advocate for humanity – all humanity. As a nation, as a people united, we need to recognize and accept that “humane-ness” needs to be returned to humanity. Let this be our job. Let this be all of our jobs! Let this be our priority – for ourselves and for others. Let us begin now to return “humane-ness” to humanity for our children and their children.