Restoring Justice Heart to Heart After the Racial Taunts From San Clemente High

by on October 7, 2019 · 3 comments

in Education, From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

If there is an American tradition that has lasted longer than “racial taunting” I’d like to know what it is.

It’s truly as American as apple pie.

And it often comes out of nowhere, rising at any time and at any place, as the Lincoln High Hornets Cheerleaders found out not too long ago at an away football game against the Tritons at San Clemente High.

Oh, they were just bouncing and dancing and prancing and chanting on behalf of their guys, trying, by the way, to hold their heads up high as the other guys were winning the day, big time, and the home crowd was feeling it, big time, having a grand old time, hugging each other and high fiving and dancing on their feet, their marching band tapping away with snappy victorious drum beats, the brass section blasting their horns until the cows come home…

Friday night high school football. U.S.A.

And then, like lightning bolts, striking through the clouds, the hostile sounds of racism pierced the evening’s joyful air, loud and clear:

“Go back to Africa!”

“Are you from the ghetto?”

“You should be on leashes!”

With some anti-gay and anti-LatinX verbiage and an “N” word or two thrown in to add a little spice to all the hullabaloo.

Somebody’s got a lot of work to do cleaning up the damage from this sad picture of hate in full bloom – and I’m glad it’s not me.

But, as an old very happily retired principal of 20 years, I can’t help but see this scenario as an “If life hands you lemons make lemonade” kind of situation.

And, if I had anything to do with this, as a principal (and this is not a comment, by any intention, on what anybody is or is not doing), I’d want to set a tone for the work that needs to be done.

I’d want to stand before the San Clemente High student body and community with a mike and a spotlight and do my best to paint a picture that would give them a sense of the gravity of what happened on their campus.

I’d want them to know that the verbal attack unleashed on a cheerleading team not only affected them but it also caused emotional pain for black people and brown people and queer people all over San Diego and beyond.

I’d want them to know how what was said was like adding vinegar to our old wounds, wounds dating back to the institution of slavery and Jim Crow; to the genocide of indigenous tribes so many centuries ago; to the “Alamo”; to when it was a crime to be a so-called “homo.”

I’d want them to know that I’m speaking to them having experienced “sitting at the back of the bus” and drinking from “Colored Only” water fountains and “avoiding eye contact with white folks,” and how not doing so could have had me hanging from a tree, and the lynch-men running free…

I’d stress that resolving the problem at hand won’t be easy, because seeking “justice for all” never is, that the harm that’s been done can’t be ignored and deferred as the Lincoln cheerleaders need a forum to share their pain; that the perpetrators of that pain have some deep soul-searching to undergo if they’re to temper whatever drives them to blatantly disrespect their fellow human beings.

I would let them know that our goal is for all concerned to heal and as one who believes there’s nothing more healing than the arts, as the arts get at who we are and what we have to offer our world, I would say to all gathered:

“What we are doing is going down a path leading to restorative justice, a relatively new concept in dealing with crimes against people and communities. And as we take this hopeful journey together I want to invite the sketchers and painters among you and the poets and writers of essays and playwrights and screen writers and singers and dancers and musicians to join me in combining our talents to create works we can share with each other to get to know each other better.

“Someone once said that we should ‘be the change we want to see’ and I say that we can’t accomplish that unless we reach out to each other, soul to soul, heart to heart.

“That’s the key to what we’re about I would dare say and I’ll be with you on this adventure every step of the way.

“If we go about resolving these racial issues in a spirit of love, we’ll win the day.”

Well, all that’s easy for me to say, sitting at my iMac, typing away. But that’s exactly how I would have gone about it back in my day and I’m thinking both schools are going to find a way to toast their, hopefully, budding relationship with a little lemonade – soon some day.

Fighting against injustice in progressive ways, like “racial taunting,” is also a tradition that is as American as apple pie and since it is one that has served me well throughout my life I would feel remiss if I didn’t try to instill such ideals in the minds of students of mine.

Creating a better world takes one step at a time.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman October 7, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Writer Ernie McCray — a mellow tall African-American guy, youthful basketball player, poet, teacher, school principal, father and grandfather, Arizona native– seems to have made a personal decision long ago to meet racist disrespect and cruelty with equanimity and hopeful ideas for positive resolution of differences. Personally, I don’t know how he does it.

This terrible story just makes me feel mad as hell. I’m curious to know what restorative justice has occurred at San Clemente High School since this outrageous incident when kids from San Diego’s Lincoln High School were San Clemente’s guests. Has San Diego Unified School District made a move to protect/educate its students, to restore justice? What official Good Thing has happened in the aftermath?


Jean Brown October 8, 2019 at 7:40 am

This is beautifully written and so true! We all need to “be the change we wish to see,” I would humbly suggest you send a copy of this article to each school principal, district superintendents, and school board members.
I indeed believe that this must become a “teachable moment.” We all can learn from what is still occurring in 2019!
I feel the worst outcome of what happened that night would be to “sweep it under the rug” and try to forget about it. People young and old need to reflect on and learn from this, so history does not repeat itself again!


nostalgic October 8, 2019 at 10:10 am

I remember when Lincoln and Morse were the rivals, and all the others were in awe. Rev. George Stevens, the City Council member, would roar up to the pep rally in his little Mercedes Convertible, jump out and take the stage to applause and cheering, to remind them how proud he was of their teams. His last words were always, “I have to go now.” At Morse he would say, “I’m off to Lincoln” and everybody would roar with laughter. I’m not sure of the point of my own message, really. There were times when money didn’t buy everything, I suppose.


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