seems to me that someone might be playing the racism card a little too strongly…


1 Response to “seems to me that someone might be playing the racism card a little too strongly…”

  1. December 10, 2009 at 3:32 PM

    Copyright 2009 Bristol Herald Courier
    Bristol Herald Courier (Virginia)

    Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News

    December 9, 2009 Wednesday


    HEADLINE: VHS basketball court controversy elicits charges of racism

    BYLINE: David McGee, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.

    Dec. 9–BRISTOL, Va. — City residents made impassioned pleas Monday to honor a former Virginia High School coach, with one suggesting that failure to do so smacks of racism.

    Speaking to the city School Board, more than a half dozen people urged the board to name the high school’s new basketball court for Ballard Lee, who coached there from 1972 until 1990.

    In November, Vice Chairman Randy White’s bid to name the court in Lee’s honor — as it was being installed — failed 2-2 with one board member absent.

    At that time, Chairwoman Virginia Goodson and member Eric Clark said they wanted more time to study the request and suggested the board needed a policy to govern such recognition.

    “The board should already have policies established for these acts,” resident Jackie Nophlin said Monday. “Be careful not to loose those devils. Have a policy established for everyone. Coach Lee didn’t care if you were black or white, yellow or brown. He could care less. He got the best out of all of us.”

    Nophlin, who is black, said racism remains “real” in this area and she suggested that snubbing Lee, also black, could be viewed as a racist act.

    “It has the smell of it,” Nophlin said in a Tuesday phone interview.

    Clark said Tuesday he is offended by such talk.

    “That really bothers me. People who know me, and know what I stand for, know that — to even suggest that — is ridiculous,” Clark said. “It’s real easy to throw that card out there and if you don’t vote for something you’re [branded] a racist.”

    A tearful Goodson said Tuesday that charge hurt her feelings.

    “I’m not a racist and I never intended for my comments to mean that,” Goodson said. “It hurts me somebody would think that. That was never the intention.”

    Both said they want to establish a policy, so such requests don’t “open Pandora’s box.”

    “When I first came on the board a group wanted to name the floor for Coach Bob Coleman,” Clark said. “That group was told we need to have a policy in place and, frankly, we’ve gotten busy with other stuff.

    “I think it needs to be handled in the proper way,” Clark said. “I just think we need to have some criteria in place, because we have a lot of things that need to be named for someone.”

    Goodson predicted the board wouldn’t consider such a policy right away, because it is actively searching for a new superintendent.

    Lee, who died earlier this year, played basketball at the former Douglass High School before becoming a standout at King College where he was later enshrined in its athletics hall of fame.

    Wilhelmina Banks, chairwoman of an organization calling itself the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial team, also supported the naming.

    “It would be a profound, timely gesture and permanent reminder of respect to see in bold, black letters on the newly painted maple hardwood gym floor, Ballard Lee Court,” Banks said.

    Banks also questioned how Joseph Van Pelt Elementary School was named for the former superintendent without a policy.

    Clark said that decision was made more than 30 years ago and he doesn’t know who or how that choice was made.

    “The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial team is confident that the School Board policy study delay has enabled the board members to recognize the importance of not passing up this golden opportunity to honor Ballard Lee. There is no question that he deserves this honor,” Banks said.

    Resident Sally Crockett, a longtime friend of the Lee family, recounted how their children grew up together and how Lee never distinguished between races.

    Joseph Fitsanakis, a politics and history professor at King College who never met Lee, said the former coach and teacher could remain an example.

    “Students need symbols — positive examples of African-Americans. And not just the African-American kids, but the white kids, who are bombarded with negative stereotypes of African-American kids in the media,” Fitsanakis said. “Racism begins when people are bombarded by negative stereotypes.”

    Board members took no action Monday. The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Jan. 4, 2010.

    | (276) 645-2532

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