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Students use "Trump" as racial slur, chant it at basketball games

I am not sure whether to be impressed teenagers are paying any attention to national politics or depressed over the decline of civility in sports.

In recent athletic contests in two states, students taunted opponents from schools with higher Latino-American enrollment either by chanting “Trump, Trump” or holding up a poster of the Republican presidential candidate and yelling “Build the wall.”


The first incident occurred in Indiana and involved a basketball game between two Catholic schools, Bishop Noll and Andrean. (As a graduate of a Catholic high school, Mother Seton Regional, Sister Margaret Irene or Sister Regina would have silenced this stuff with a single glance. And their disapproving glance would have turned you to stone.)

According to the Times of Northwest Indiana:

A student from Andrean brought a large photo of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's head to the game. During the game, some Andrean students began chanting to the Bishop Noll students across the gym "Build a wall," which was followed by the Noll students chanting "You're a racist."

In a statement from the Diocese of Gary, Bishop Donald J. Hying  said:

“The incident continues to be under investigation by school officials and is being taken very seriously. Any actions or words that can be perceived as racist or derogatory to others are antithetical to the Christian faith and will not be tolerated in any of our institutions. It was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind that such actions would be happening at a gathering of two of our Catholic high schools. This is not what we teach our students. Jesus is at the center of all we do and his message was and is one of inclusion and respect for all people. I take this incident to heart and again state that it is not to be tolerated, even as a childish prank.”

The second incident occurred in Des Moines, Iowa, where students from Dallas Center-Grimes High chanted "Trump! Trump!" after a boys' basketball game. Students from the mostly white school were apparently unhappy to lose to Perry High School, which has greater student diversity.

According to the Des Moines Register:

No Perry varsity players are Latino, the team's coach, Ned Menke, said, but 48 percent of the student body population is a minority, according to Perry school leaders.

{Dallas Center-Grimes High Activities director Steve} Watson said the Trump chants came from 10 to 15 individuals of the 100- to 120-member student section. He estimated the chant was yelled "four or five times."

"When they saw me come down the bleachers, they knew it was wrong," Watson said. "As an administrator you'd like to think you wouldn't even have to tell them to stop, or they wouldn't even start it."

Watson declined to discuss any disciplinary measures taken against the students participating in the chant, citing student privacy. "Whenever anything turns personal or offensive, it's out of line, and this is definitely out of line,” Watson said. "Our kids know that. They knew it before. They chose to do it."

In a letter to the Perry High School Chief, the student newspaper, student Kevin Lopez wrote that yelling "Trump" as a racial insult was becoming common, citing earlier instances where the Perry team experienced it. This time, apparently, the taunting also spread to social media.

Dear Editor,

This is a letter for the community of Perry. It is no secret that our great town is incredibly diverse, the student body and staff at Perry High School see this as an advantage and we come together as a town and celebrate our diversity. But, recently there has been a new chanting trend uprising at high school basketball games directed at us.

Perry is competitive and we are known for being loud! We love a student section that can interact with us and make the atmosphere full of energy and keep the ambiance fun. We in the student body and community members who cheer on the Perry basketball team have been exposed to this new derogatory chant, “Trump.”

It is a chant said to intimidate and discriminate our Latino/Hispanic students and it is a chant that is fueled by racism.

Monday night at the boys district game against DC-G in Adel, was the fourth instance this chant was heard. Monday night however was the first time we were exposed to such racism on social media, just to show how big of an issue this is actually becoming. We at Perry High School acknowledge and are aware of the fact that people are entitled to their own political views and that they are to be respected, but when a name is chanted in a racial manner and used to intimidate us is when the line is drawn.

Perry has been a racial target for many towns for a long time now, and now I am tackling this problem. I urge that you stay alert to chants like “Trump” or “Mini-Mexico” and that you please take action. We know racism is alive and well, but we refuse to undergo discrimination at Iowa high school athletic events.

I am happy students from Dallas Center-Grimes and Perry high schools have met to address the incident. You can read about the meeting here.

Here is a quote from that account reflective of how these incivilities happen:

Dallas Center-Grimes student body co-president Austin Kloewer was in the stands Monday night. “There’s that feeling inside that this is wrong, but at the same time you don’t think of the big context, the feelings of the other side,” said Kloewer.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.