“The children have to go to school and get called the N-word and are dealing with structural racism,” said a frustrated Trahern Crews.
Crews is the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Minnesota, and he has received a slew of complaints of alleged racism happening within the state’s public schools targeting Black students. An area of particular concern is in New Prague, Minnesota, which is about 45 miles south of Minneapolis.
New Prague High School has had several racial issues in recent years. The school is 94 percent white with only 12 Black students enrolled according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In 2017, a school play was cancelled after a photo circulated with students wearing KKK robes as part of the performance. Last year, a social media video made the rounds of alleged white New Prague High School students flippantly using the N-word.
It came as no surprise when Crews was sent a message from Dennis Williamson, a girls basketball coach of Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota, who witnessed racism firsthand at New Prague High School.
“Is that what I think I hear, yeah, they’re making monkey noises, and it was very loud,” Williamson said after hearing the crowd at a Feb. 8 basketball game hurl racist taunts toward his players, who are predominantly Black. The experience left the players angry and traumatized.
“They could not stop crying and they wanted to go back out there and confront the fans because obviously it was racially motivated on New Prague’s part,” Williamson said.
The same day Williamson’s team faced racist insults, Black hockey players from St. Louis Park High School, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, another suburb of Minneapolis, were also subjected to New Prague’s alleged racism as reported by the Star Tribune. “
The same night they were playing the same team, New Prague, and they have two Black players on their team, and they were calling their Black players monkeys and to go back to the zoo,” Williamson said.
The racism allegations swirling around New Prague High School resulted in Robbinsdale Cooper High School and St. Louis Park refusing to travel to New Prague and compete against them out of fear their Black and brown players will also face racist attacks.
“Two schools to tell New Prague, they’re not going to compete against them, is just a reflection of where we’re at with race relations here in Minnesota,” Crews said.
Since speaking out, Williamson says he has received several messages from current and former students of color from New Prague wishing to share their experiences of racism.
“Current students and former students of color they have been reaching out to me sending me all these snapchats of Caucasian students calling them the N-word, monkeys and that they’re their slave masters and they’re saying that nothing is happening at all, and this is a daily occurrence,” Williamson said.
Atlanta Black Star sought comment from New Prague Area Schools on how it intends to address the racism allegations, and Superintendent Tim Dittberner sent a statement which reads in part: “First and foremost, New Prague Area Schools does not and will not tolerate hate speech and racism in our schools. We need to repair the harm done to students.”
“The investigation of the alleged incident at the girls’ basketball game is nearing completion, so I will not comment further on that at this time.”
“There are other hate speech incidents that have surfaced in the past week. While we take all reports of bullying and harassment seriously and follow up by investigating them and taking appropriate action steps according to district policy and state law, we need to be proactive and educate to prevent further incidents.”
“Our high school principal has hosted listening sessions this past week and is heartened by the fact that students and staff are ready to take action and ensure that our schools are a place free of hate speech. The work of listening to our school community will drive our actions moving forward. I will provide more details on concrete action steps we are taking at the school board meeting.”
Crews says Minnesota Black Lives Matter will continue working with students and parents who have carried out successful protests and walkouts.
The BLM chapter also plans to hold school officials accountable and warns if action isn’t taken swiftly to root out racism within the schools, they will challenge the state’s American Rescue Plan federal funds, citing the school district is failing to provide a safe in-person learning environments for all of its students.
“We expect our children to have a safe place to learn, we expect our children to go to school and not be called n—-r, we expect adults not to be at the game calling our kids monkeys and n—–s and stuff like that and we’re going to hold New Prague and government officials accountable,” Crews said.
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