Last week, Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon investigated what appeared to be a racial slur shouted by someone in the stands during a Feb. 7 boys’ varsity basketball game against McCaskey High School. Like NL | LancasterOnline’s Mike Gross reported over the weekend: “Audio taken from a wall-mounted video camera picked up what sounded like a spectator saying the ‘n-word’, apparently aiming at a McCaskey player while that he was running towards the bench, having been substituted in the game.” But the Cornwall-Lebanon School District released a statement on Friday evening that none of the “students and spectators in attendance heard a racial slur being uttered.” The students, however, acknowledged that they were calling one of McCaskey’s student-athletes Thon Maker. Thon Maker is a former NBA professional basketball player.
You get two free throws if you knew who Thon Maker is before this story was reported.
Maker was selected as the 10th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2016 NBA draft, but now plays for the Long Island Nets in an NBA developmental league.
As Gross reported, the 24-year-old is a 7-foot athlete from South Sudan – he’s about 9 inches taller than McCaskey’s tallest player. “Unlike all McCaskey players, his hair is so short that he looks almost bald. The point of reference, even beyond his darkness, is unclear,” Gross noted.
So why shout the name of Thon Maker, of all the players?
Next to his height, Maker’s most distinct feature is probably his dark skin, of which he is justifiably proud.
“We’re tall, dark-skinned, beautiful — I’m always proud of that,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2018, referring to being South Sudanese. “There’s something going on in Australia where they have makeup stuff that makes women feel lighter. … If only I could talk to them and say: Be proud of who you are!
His story is incredible. As the Milwaukee newspaper reported, Maker lived in what is now South Sudan until he was 6 years old. Because of the civil war there, “Maker and his family, including his mother and four siblings, left home. They stayed in Uganda for a few months. They then emigrated to Western Australia, where her family was accepted as refugees. He moved to North America as a teenager to play basketball.
He looks like a handsome young man, certainly not the fall of an inside joke. And it’s certainly not a household name.
So we’re curious: Did Cornwall-Lebanon School District officials ask why Maker’s name was called out to a McCaskey player?
The Cornwall-Lebanon statement appeared confident that the incident “did not involve racial slur” and correctly noted that “racist slurs or comments are never acceptable under any circumstances”.
We would still like to know why the Thon Maker name came up.
For now, however, we’d like to highlight McCaskey’s response to this situation. Because it was wonderful.
As Gross reported, “McCaskey’s basketball program on Saturday posted a video on Twitter which included a one or two sentence message from each player.
One by one, the student-athletes calmly dropped pearls of wisdom. Their messages included these:
“I want to be welcomed in every community I go to.”
“I promise to give respect and I want it back.”
“I want discipline wherever I go.”
“I want fairness in all environments.”
“I bring a positive spirit and ask for one in return.”
“My hope is that students and adults will show more maturity.”
“We seek brotherhood wherever we go.”
“We think all schools should use this as a lesson because it has an impact on us young people.”
“I demand change.”
Each young man had something powerful to say. Indeed, what they said could constitute an update to the spectator code of conduct. McCaskey’s video would certainly have more impact than the pre-match recitation of rules of conduct that many spectators at Lancaster-Lebanon League competitions seem to ignore.
Even though Cornwall-Lebanon School District officials are certain there was nothing racist about what was shouted at the Feb. 7 game, the McCaskey basketball players taught us all to take an unpleasant situation and turn it into an opportunity to demand change.
The words of their coach, Freddy Ramos, should also be taken to heart.
Ramos said he challenges “our league, our neighboring schools, other leagues, other communities, to be the change, to lead the change, to educate, to teach, to monitor and to constantly checking to ensure that every environment our children are in. is safe, inclusive and fair.
The coach told LNP | Gross from LancasterOnline on Thursday that his “job is to stand up for our children, and a lot of that is about keeping children safe.”
“I have to prepare my team to walk regularly in these situations,” he said.
He also said he saw adults – spectators and game officials – noticing insults and refusing to act.
“What a great opportunity to become allies,” he said. “Instead, silence. Silence is empowerment.”
Ramos is absolutely right.
Silence gives those who use racial slurs the right to do so. Silence is tacit agreement that racial slurs are okay. The same goes for homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic slurs, as well as those aimed at a person’s appearance.
We know it’s hard to speak up (it’s especially hard when we know the person is saying racist or otherwise offensive things). But we have to make completely unacceptable insults. Especially in a school setting, where students are expected to feel safe.
We should tell a school official if we don’t feel comfortable confronting the culprit. And we should insist that the issue be taken seriously.
We are not the language police. But everyone knows the kind of disgusting insults we are talking about here.
They are the ones who lead a high school basketball player, on video, to express his desire to be welcomed into each community.
He shouldn’t have to ask.