Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lanier High School Fiasco

Just to show you anti Hispanic feelings are alive and well in Texas, let's go to San Antonio Lanier High and a recent basketball playoff game against Austin Cedar Park.

Read what the San Antonio Express News had to say:

Some basketball seasons are legendary at Lanier High School for the winning ways they've ended. This year's march to the University Interscholastic League's state 4A finals will be remembered for the Voks' hard work on the court, certainly, but also for something that never should have happened — not at a sporting event, not anywhere.

The TV website kens5.com first reported the March 4 incident that took place at Blossom Athletic Center's Littleton Gym, the site of the Voks' unsuccessful regional game against the Cedar Park High School Timberwolves. According to the account and to several people I talked to who were there, a group of 15-20 Cedar Park students hurled disparaging cheers at the Lanier team, teasing the boys for their Hispanic ethnicity and questioning their citizenship.

Lanier Principal Miguel Elizondo said the first of a series of chants began late in the first quarter, after a Cedar Park player scored. “USA, USA, USA,” the students shouted.

“I thought that was the kid's nickname,” Elizondo told me Friday. “But when it continued, I knew it was something else.”

You need only look at the basketball team's all-Hispanic roster to understand what that “something else” was. But in case the jeers had missed their mark, the Cedar Park students continued with, “Arizona, Arizona, Arizona,” in apparent reference to Arizona's legislative assault against illegal immigrants and, “This isn't soccer, this isn't soccer.”

By Wednesday, the incident had drawn an apology from the Leander Independent School District and Cedar Park High School's principal, Barbara W. Spelman. And on Friday, San Antonio Independent School District Athletic Director Gil Garza filed a formal complaint with the UIL about the Cedar Park students' poor sportsmanship.

In her letter to Elizondo, Spelman relayed that Leander officials had addressed the students' behavior and planned to use the incident as a learning opportunity. Cedar Park, whose student body is mostly white, recently started a “No Place for Hate” organization, Spelman wrote.

I hope the lessons stick. The students responsible for the boorishness obviously need to learn empathy and respect — principles that are valued in the USA.

My concern is greater, however, for the Voks team. The assault they endured was relentless and degrading. I'm not so sure a Voks win that night would have been a salve. The insults weren't intended as motivation.

Voks head basketball coach Rudy Bernal has counseled the team, assuring them this pocket of ignorance wasn't representative of the entire Cedar Park community. Elizondo addressed the issue with the Lanier student body during Friday morning's announcements, essentially offering the same message. SAISD's top administrator for high schools, meanwhile, also met with the Voks team Friday morning in a meeting that featured Cedar Park's athletic coordinator on speakerphone again expressing apologies.

The close community support will help players get past the hurt and, with any luck, show them how to do so with forgiveness and grace.

“They understand that not everybody's like this,” Elizondo said. “If they don't think that, then everybody loses out.”

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