Letter: Racist incident at Jamestown basketball game raises so many questions

"Was there no one else in that gymnasium who witnessed these racist comments and chants who was willing to stand up?" Fargo resident Barry Nelson asks.

Letter to the editor FSA

I have followed coverage and handling of the racist incident at a Bismarck-Jamestown basketball game from the moment it was reported. This was a horrific occurrence at a NDHSAA sanctioned event and I was immediately saddened and outraged that two students and their families had to experience this outpouring of racism. I am writing now after reading the Sunday, March 19 article on how the Jamestown schools have responded to the incident.

This whole incident raises so many questions. What, if anything, would have occurred had not a) the incident been recorded and posted on Facebook and b) the parent of one of the athletes not issued a complaint? Was there no one else in that gymnasium who witnessed these racist comments and chants who was willing to stand up? What would I have done had I been in that crowd and heard these racist taunts?

The article raised even more questions. Why are only the victims and their families identified by name? Great care seems to be given to protect the perpetrators and the administrator who failed in their duties, yet the victims’ identities have been known from the beginning.

From the article, it does appear that this incident was taken seriously by the administration of Jamestown schools and I appreciate the efforts by the superintendent. But what is disturbing is his additional comment regarding the school staff person at the game: “this administrator did know about one particular issue in the second half of the game and did not act on it because of his perception that it was not racially motivated” and “some student fans said they did not understand their conduct to be racially insensitive but thought of it as just noise making.” Nothing was reflected on the fact that the parent of one of the athletes complained at the game but had been dismissed.

My hope is that this is not treated like a one-off kind of thing, a “we dealt with the problem, it’s done, let’s move on.” This, and the fact that another fan incident occurred with another school shortly after this incident indicates that this problem goes far deeper than just a few students at a game not knowing that war whoops and monkey sounds are racially insensitive.


Finally, I want to be assured that the affected students specifically and their parents and families have been engaged in this process. There needs to be a common resolve that no student going forward should have to contend with this kind of racist behavior.

Barry Nelson is a resident of Fargo.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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