11-Year-Old Black Boy Forced To Kneel And Apologize To School Headmaster Because It’s The ‘African Way’ To Say Sorry

Despite all the visibility and massive cases involving race in this country, new stories still break every week about people of color facing discrimination. The most disturbing are the incidents that occur in schools, presumed safe spaces for young kids trying to gain knowledge and preparation for the real world.

Earlier this month, a high school basketball game in Oklahoma was soured when an announcer, who thought his microphone was off, took the opportunity to spew nasty remarks at a few of the athletes who decided to kneel during the National Anthem. The girls basketball game was between Norman High School and Midwest City. Norman High girls’ basketball coach posted a clip of the nasty remarks on twitter and captioned it “@NFHSNetwork looks like you forgot to cut the Mic!!!”

A week before that, a college basketball coach came under fire for his tone deaf response to his team after losing a game. Creighton University’s men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott told his team to “stay on the plantation” after they lost to Xavier with a score of 77-69. While the team debriefed in the locker room postgame, McDermott’s remarks included insensitive statements which motivated him to publicly apologize on social media on Tuesday night.

His apology: “On February 27th, after an emotionally tough loss on the road, I addressed our student-athletes and staff in the postgame locker room and used a terribly inappropriate analogy in making a point about staying together as a team despite the loss. Specifically, I said: ‘Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can’t have anybody leave the plantation.’”

This use of racist “analogies” and pointed comments is sadly extended to younger kids as well. NY Daily News reported on an 11 year old black boy was forced to kneel down and apologize to a teacher who called it the “African way” to say sorry. The teacher in question was St. Martin de Porres Marianist school headmaster John Holian.

Holian, who is white, told the young man’s mother Trisha Paul, who is Haitian-American, he’d learned the approach from a Nigerian father who said it was an “African way” of apologizing.

“Once he started mentioning this African family, that’s when it just clicked,” said Paul. “Like, this is not normal procedure. I felt there was no relevance at all. Is he generalizing that everyone who is Black is African? That’s when I realized something is not right with this situation.”

Paul said her young child is still coping with the exchange, which has left him embarrassed and withdrawn. “My son was humiliated, hurt, embarrassed, sad and confused,” Paul explained. “He reads about things happening because of your skin color. To experience it… he’s just trying to process it in his 11-year-old brain.”

Paul has hired a lawyer and is seeking legal action against Holian, who has been placed on leave.

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