Letter: People heard, but no one stood up
The recent string of conversation in the Journal — Bob Stannard's May 5 column and Mark Tashjian's follow up May 12 column along with former Coach Shehadi's letter — all addressed events that had transpired at a BBA boys' basketball game more than five years ago and in doing so (along with Duane Carleton's documentary "Divided by Diversity" that started the whole conversation) solved a long-standing mystery in my world.
You see, five years ago, and then occasionally in the years since, I have overheard hushed conversations around me about some unnamed and undescribed, and apparently indescribable, incidents that happened at BBA and other local basketball games when the Mount St. Joseph team, with five African-American starters, came to play. Maybe it was just a question of timing, but when I did overhear such conversations, I never once heard anything more about these instances other than "Oh, it was bad," or "So horrible."
Although I have yet to see the documentary myself (but will soon), one of the more significant issues about this incident is obvious, and although raised by somewhat by Mr. Stannard, needs to be laid out more specifically. BBA Headmaster Tashjian and Coach Shehadi say they did not hear the inappropriate remarks that were apparently directed at the opposing team's players, the black players originally from New York City. But some people heard. Some people heard, or there wouldn't be documentary video of such incidents. Some people heard, or there wouldn't have been hushed witness accounts uttered near me on more than one occasion conveying the horror of just how bad it was.
And yet no one did anything about it. No witnesses came forward to address what had happened in public at this basketball game. No one addressed a complaint to a school official about this objectionable behavior. As Mr. Stannard indicated in his column, no one "stood up."
Recently at Fenway Park in Boston, there was at least one instance of verbal, racial harassment of a black outfielder from the Baltimore Orioles by one or more fans. Racist taunts still happen at professional sporting events as well as at the high school level. Because of one or several "bad actors," the whole Red Sox organization and the City of Boston issued heartfelt apologies to the player who had been attacked and the Boston fans gave him a standing ovation the next night by way of apology and support.
All it takes is a tiny minority of racists to taint the whole world around them. It is up to all of us who witness any such incidents to, if not comfortable directly confronting the abusive people in question, bring the behavior to the attention of the proper authorities; in the case of the 2012 BBA game, obviously, the school administrators.
I am the founder of a subcommittee of the MoveOn Manchester organization known as the Northshire Diversity Alliance. We are local residents whose goal is to educate and elevate the community in any way we can as regards issues of diversity. We are always strongest as a community, as a region, as a state and a nation when we recognize the benefits of our common humanity and respect each other's differences. For more information, please write firstname.lastname@example.org or visit MoveOnManchester on Facebook.
Editor's note: In a letter to the editor last week, Shehadi said he didn't recall hearing the chant while coaching the game. Tashjian told the Journal on Wednesday that he was not at the game. "Had I been there and heard it, I can assure you I would have acted swiftly and forcefully," he said.
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