On the court, the 53rd District title game between Knott County Central and Cordia High School couldn’t have been played any better. It was the epitome of what athletic competition should be — two teams playing their hardest, and when the dust settled, there were no hard feelings.
But it seems off the court was a different matter, especially in the hours before the game even began. That’s when some Internet banter began taking shape, most of it admittedly benign. But in at least two instances some of the worst surfaced in the form of Internet posts with apparent racial motivations.
In the past year several student-athletes have transferred to Cordia, many of whom are black. Two in particular hail from Canada. These two kids were the target of at least one opposing fan’s ire last week.
In a classless and distasteful posting made to social networking sites on Friday, an image of a Canadian flag was altered so that a noose hangs from the maple leaf, with a caption reading, “F*** Canada” pasted across the bottom. It’s hard to imagine that this post wasn’t directed at two of Cordia’s players, and it’s even harder to imagine that race didn’t play a factor.
This is 2013. Division along racial lines should be a thing of the past, and in instances like this, where the ignorance of racism bubbles to the surface, our country, and specifically our region here in Eastern Kentucky, really shows its lack of progression.
And it didn’t stop at a Canadian flag adorned with a noose. Another post on Friday shows a photo of Cordia coach Rodrick Rhodes, who is black, standing in front of his bench with his arms outstretched, three of his players, none of whom are black, standing behind him. A caption pasted along the top and bottom reads, “BACK TO THE BENCH WHITE BOYS.”
It’s hard not to hang my head at asinine drivel like this that is symptomatic of a nation yet to fully invest itself in equality. We should be beyond things like this now. Instead this is a stark reminder that our nation has a long way still to go, especially considering that something like basketball could spur on such derision.
It would be easy to simply shake my head and stress that this game these kids are playing is just a game. But these racially-motivated posts go beyond the game of basketball and speak to things that matter more, because when the game ends, real life begins again off the court.
This past weekend the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that one of Cordia’s transfers, senior Emmanuel Owootoah, a highly regarded point guard receiving interest from several major Division I colleges, transferred from his school in Canada after his mother began looking for avenues out of their neighborhood where gang violence was prevalent.
So, he enrolled at Cordia High School. And for what? To be treated this way?
We’re better than that, or at least we should be.
Some may say that my reaction is an overreaction, but for now, I can’t help but wonder how things move forward from here. Mr. Owootoah will graduate from Cordia and likely attend a major university outside of our region. And what stories will he be able to tell about his time in Eastern Kentucky, and especially about the people here?