• Gianficaro: What is best way to tackle racism?
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    Date of publication: Oct. 10, 2017

    By Phil Gianficaro, columnist

    The Intelligencer and Courier Times

    Our 7-year-old son's sobs and tears nine years ago offered me a glimmer of hope, that the hateful tide was turning, that the next generation would be smarter, more inclusive and understanding, that open hearts would eclipse closed minds.

    And then there was the ugliness at the Quakertown Community High School football game Friday evening, when some Quakertown middle school students hurled racial epithets at Cheltenham's African-American cheerleaders during the game, and threw more epithets and rocks at the bus transporting the cheerleaders after the game.

    It causes one to wonder, if some young teens harbor this degree of public hate based solely on the color of another's skin, what does the future hold?

    The destructive winds of racism blew cold and hard in Quakertown. Middle school students spewed threats and racism as the spirited girls were cheering during the game. The perpetrators carried the repulsive behavior to the cheerleaders' bus when the game was over. A despicable tornado followed by a hurricane of hate. Progress frozen, praying for a thaw.

    Investigations have been completed by the school district, and punishment has been meted out to those responsible, in accordance with the district's code of conduct. Certainly, any kind of harassment and bullying, based on race or otherwise, is abhorred by the school leaders at Quakertown, including Superintendent William Harner. On his personal blog posted Tuesday on the school district website, he responded appropriately: "We will not tolerate it!" And at the Cheltenham at Quakertown soccer match on Tuesday afternoon, many from Quakertown displayed public support for Cheltenham's targeted students, with signs that read: "Q-town Love to Cheltenham," "We are so sorry, Cheltenham" and another which showed it support for Cheltenham, and closed with #love, #acceptance and #stopthenonsense.

    However, not everyone gets off the hook here. According to Harner, some middle school students began taunting the cheerleaders during pre-game activities. A security guard, who was dispatched to watch over the cheerleaders, heard the taunts and told the boys to stop, Harner said.

    Told them to stop? Told them? That's it? Why weren't the students in question escorted from the stadium? Instead, and quite unbelievably, it was the cheerleaders who were inconvenienced, moved to another part of the field, away from the provocateurs. The troublemakers must have felt bulletproof, a reality borne out later that evening.

    Unfortunately, the hatred didn't end with the final whistle Friday. An email from Quakertown Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards to parents Tuesday alerted them to the following social media post that referenced the racial incident at the football game:

    "I hate to say it, but it's gone (sic) take a lot of bullets to stop these kids and their racism. I hope it doesn't come to that, but nothing else is working."

    Another hurricane after the initial tornado.

    Nine years ago, our 7-year-old son sobbed on our sofa as he read about slavery. He wept because, at that tender age, he didn't understand the shackles of slavery didn't apply to his best friend, who is African American. It marked perhaps the only time I was pleased to watch our young boy cry.

    The racial hostility that occurred at that football game Friday is not exclusive to Quakertown. Earlier this year at middle schools in North Carolina, Texas and Michigan, the hatred surfaced against minorities. The chanting, the intimidation, the assaulting. More than 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a peaceful movement for equality and change, all that's missing today, it seems, are separate water fountains and fire hoses.

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