By Manny Otiko, California Black Media
Athletes at a northern California high school are the latest group of students to be punished for a racially-insensitive prank.
Football players at River Valley High School in Yuba City were seen in a video acting out a “slave auction” involving their Black teammates. In the video, which was posted to Twitter, the African American students are seen stripped to their underwear and paraded into the locker room where their teammates are yelling and jeering at them.
This prank cost the football team its season because the players featured in the video have been barred from participating in games. The football team now doesn’t have enough players to field a team.
African-American students make up a small fraction of the student body at River Valley High School, which is predominantly Hispanic. According to school data, there are only 31 African-American students at the school out of an enrollment of 1,801. There are 760 Hispanic/Latino students enrolled.
Yuba City Unified School District Superintendent Doreen Osumi said the video reflected poorly on the school district.
“Re-enacting a slave sale as a prank tells us that we have a great deal of work to do with our students so they can distinguish between intent and impact,” said Osumi in a press statement.
“They may have thought this skit was funny, but it is not; it is unacceptable and requires us to look honestly and deeply at issues of systemic racism,” she said.
These kinds of incidents happen regularly. Earlier in the month, Amador High School, also in northern California, had to cancel its football season after school authorities found several players were involved in a Snapchat thread called “Kill the Blacks.”
A similar event happened back in 1997 when a Torrance teacher tried to enact a slave auction. Student Natalie Jackson complained to her mother, who took the issue up with school administrators and the press.
Jackson said she went public with a video because she wanted to inspire change.
“Some say that I am overreacting, but they didn’t have this experience,” Jackson told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t want to go back to my U.S. history class, but I am going back. I am going to do my work and everything that I am supposed to do, be strong and face the music. Maybe my action will break some barriers.”
“Mock slave auctions and other racist actions on the sports field have been occurring with an alarming and increased frequency in schools throughout California,” said Rick L. Callender, president of the California/Hawaii NAACP. “The CA/HI NAACP will be pushing the State to collect data statewide so that we can understand the prevalence of how often the activities are occurring in schools throughout California.”
Callender called on California high schools to ensure the safety of Black students and continue educating all students about the importance of Black history.