California school loses football season over mock ‘slave auction’

A California high school will lose the rest of its college football season after some players were caught on video appearing to play a ‘slave auction’ of their black teammates.

The Yuba City Unified School District forfeited last Friday’s game for the first time after administrators became aware of the video on Thursday, Superintendent Doreen Osumi said in a statement. The district later said it would forfeit the remainder of the season after banning the team members involved from playing.

The mock auction at River Valley High School appeared organized, Osumi said, suggesting the students had planned the situation without considering it “shameful”.

“Re-enacting a slave sale as a prank tells us that we have a lot of work to do with our students so they can distinguish between intent and impact,” Osumi said. “They may have thought that skit was funny, but it’s not; it is unacceptable and forces us to honestly and deeply examine issues of systemic racism.

District administrators did not respond to questions about the number of students involved, what the video specifically showed and where the recording was shared. The incident, which happened about 38 miles north of Sacramento, had previously been reported by the Sacramento-based KCRA television station and other local media.

Mock school slave auctions — some sanctioned by officials and some not — have come under intense scrutiny in recent years as the United States struggles to address their history. of racism and fractures about how their past sins still shape them. Schools have been particularly hot spots for these arguments as politicians in Republican-led states seek to ban classes that suggest racism is systemic in the United States.

For Yuba City District, the loss of players means the team does not have enough members to complete the season. Sophomores and juniors on the varsity team, which was 0-5 before its first forfeit last week, can choose to play on the varsity junior team.

Some students may be more disciplined, Osumi said, and the district is working to develop programs on racism to help students learn from the situation. Administrators are also developing training for the football team “to act with character and dignity at all times”, she said.

“When students find humor in something that is so deeply offensive,” Osumi said, “it tells me that we have an opportunity to help them expand their mindset to be more aware, reflective, and considerate of others.”

It started with a mock “slave trade” and a school resolution against racism. Now, a war over critical race theory is tearing this small town apart.

The California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees high school sports in California, said it supports the administrators’ decision “to quickly address the misconduct of their students.”

“Discrimination in any form or any act that is disrespectful or degrading is unacceptable and does not respect the principles of CIF,” the group said in a statement.

Like the Yuba Town incident, some mock slave auctions have been initiated by students. In April 2021, a video shared on Snapchat showed college students in Traverse City, Michigan, “swapping” their black classmates. The district’s response, which included accelerating a resolution to better teach students how to live in a diverse country, rocked the community.

Other times, teachers guided their students to act out an auction as a history lesson, often sparking outrage. That’s what happened in Maplewood, NJ, in 2017, when a substitute teacher orchestrated and filmed a mock auction as a lesson in colonial history. Two years later, a teacher in Bronxville, New York allegedly let white students “bid” over black students. And in March, a North Carolina superintendent apologized after white middle schoolers pretended to “sell” their black classmates.

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