Updated: Mar 16
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Hot mic catches high school basketball announcer's racist slurs
Announcer Matt Rowan called members of an Oklahoma high school girls' basketball team the n-word after they knelt for the national anthem.
Over the weekend, you may have seen the above story. If not, the link to the entire broadcast has been included above. Our most attended certification experience Unraveling Bias: The Pandemic Edition, challenges educators to put themselves into situations such as this, and consider the trauma and impact this has on student learning and the balance between institutional ability and institutional responsibility to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for not just some students, but all students.
The Power of Language
Students learn best when they feel welcome, comfortable and safe.
Extra curricular opportunities like sports and clubs, provide the unique opportunity to enhance student learning and development outside of the classroom, however we find, all too often, school leaders and educators drop the ball when it comes to ensuring a safe extra-curricular experience for all students. In this situation specifically, there was a great responsibility for school administration and leadership to intervene and immediately secure and protect the students involved. This refers to not only the Black students participating in freedom of speech and expression, but also the students who are actively digesting the response of the institution (or lack of response) to this bias incident.
If You Permit it, You Promote It
At Kinect, we have a mantra; If You Permit It, You Promote It.
give authorization or consent to (someone) to do something.
1. further the progress of (something, especially a cause, venture, or aim); support or actively encourage.
2. give publicity to (a product, organization, or venture) so as to increase sales or public awareness.
If we ponder for even a brief moment, the definition of Permit and Promote, we can quickly digest this mantra to the fullest extent. As educators and administrators, we are equally complicit when we permit bias incidents to go unchecked in our schools, classrooms, programming, curriculum etc. The list is endless.
Do's and Don'ts of Bias Incidents in Education
In this situation, over the intercom, all players and attendees heard the racist slurs, hateful and biased messaging spewed from the mouths of the announcer (s). He was allowed to announce for the remainder of the game, which was essentially a signal of nonverbal permission and promotion by the adults and school representatives at this school event. Has not been terminated or faced immediate action and consequences for the act.
Without immediate intervention, the school officials horribly failed to protect and provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for the students who had been wronged and targeted.
Don't make excuses.
In this situation, someone attending the event reported and shared the incident with the media. It should not take for a bias incident to go viral or receive media attention to solicit action by the institution. In this case, immediate intervention did not occur, and the institutions delayed response only further demonstrates a need for Bias Response Training and Education, individually and collectively.
While an "investigation" has been announced by the district, we must also note that not only was the announcer allowed to explain, further harm to the students may have occurred as the apology was not genuine and blamed the racial slur on a seemingly unrelated medical condition.
In the formal apology released by the announcer, he indicated that as a diabetic, the students decision to kneel, directly affected his blood sugar, and caused him to say things that he wouldn't have otherwise said (assumably in public).
Do hold space for the students most affected, separate from the majority group to meet with a school counselor, administrator, or social emotional well-being practitioner to unpack the trauma of this experience.
Don't assume that students are strong enough to unpack, digest and heal from this on their own.
Being called a racial slur in front of a gymnasium full of peers, players and spectators can be a very traumatic experience for the Black students attending a predominantly white school. It is not something that can be treated lightly or brushed under the rug and must be addressed with the respect and honor the incident deserves.
As this bias incident made local and national news, there are a few different responses required of the school district in this situation.
If you find yourself grappling with whether or not the announcers were in the wrong, should have been removed from the game or should face immediate termination, that would be an immediate indication of your personal and internal need as an educator to learn more about the biases that you hold as an educator and consider the harm that your biases have on the students you are there to support and serve.
Take a Test. Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the Internet.
On their site, there are a wealth of different tests that serve as a great starting point for taking inventory of your own personal biases and can be an excellent tool on your personal journey with bias which is something we all possess.
Training: Consider offering a district wide training on Bias Incidents and educator responsibility for managing bias an ensuring equity in learning, curriculum and programming. While we always hope that you will consider Kinect for your equity and inclusion training needs, more importantly it is our hope that you will seek the tools and education needed to prevent bias incidents from permeating and staining the culture of your school.
Upcoming Training dates for Unraveling Bias: The Pandemic Edition
March 25, 2021
April 16, 2021
April 20, 2021
As a leader, understanding how to manage racially charged situations, is the best defense against large-scale problems. The reality is clear; if a bias incident is your first encounter, as an educator, having the skill to handle these situations while also ensuring a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for all is key.
Join Kinect Education Group for an immersive, bias response education experience that will dramatically increase educator capacity to respond and manage common bias incidents that occur in an educational setting. Learn about strategies for successfully building staff capacity to manage bias with an equity lens, explore commonly reported bias incidents by protected class such as Religion, race, immigration, sexism and practice every-day bias .
Have Dialogue with Students: Be intentional about holding space for difficult conversations with students about their experiences with trauma as they pursue an education. It is an indicator of an unhealthy learning culture when administrators and educators ignore, breeze over and act as if bias incidents do not have an impact on the greater school culture.
Being open and honest about the issues that create a traumatic learning experience for some students more than others, is a foundation to creating a school culture that is welcoming learning environment for all students, not just a select few.
Edutopia shared a great tool for creating ground rules for difficult conversations with students. Review the video below as an excellent starting point for creating your own rules for how you proceed with difficult conversations.
Have Dialogue with Educators:
It is equally important to have conversations with educators regarding bias incidents as it is to have conversations with students. Creating ongoing learning and dialogue with educators, can proactively address bias incidents in school culture rather than creating a reactive culture.
Click here and enter code FREECASESTUDY at check out to request your free copy of The N Word case study that can be used to address the use of racial slurs in the classroom, and the impact it has on students.
See you during the next Snack Break from Kinect!