As school officials struggle to better address current racist incidents nationwide, an NAACP chapter in Maryland is also examining the past. A “decades-long pattern” of racism involving students of color has plagued several schools in Pasadena, a predominantly White area bordering Baltimore, the Anne Arundel NAACP alleged Tuesday.
The chapter called for officials to look at the several racially charged events at Chesapeake High School and others as related and part of a “pattern,” not as isolated incidents, in Pasadena. NAACP members described the incidents, concerning the “abuse and humiliation” of Black students, to create a deeper dialogue.
“In Chesapeake High School and its feeder schools, we have seen a decades-long pattern of resistance to change and the creation of a hostile environment for children of color,” NAACP President Rev. Stephen Tillett said at Tuesday’s news conference, adding that many complaints about racist language targeting students have been made in the district, the Capital Gazette reported.
A violent threat against Black students at Chesapeake High School was posted on social media on February 26, and a complaint was filed against a former teacher who used a racial slur to attack a child last month, Tillett said. The school’s environment has historically been unwelcoming to students of color, who feel as if they are in danger.
“When your kids come home and say they don’t feel safe, we don’t have any choice but to try to stand up and have a voice for them,” Russell Tongue, a parent who spoke at the news conference, explained.
Tongue’s daughter Princess was suspended after she stepped in to break up a fight between a friend and another girl who had hurled a racist slur at her, Tongue said.
Terry Keemer Sr., a 1980 graduate of Chesapeake, was called racial slurs by classmates, including being told that he couldn’t become more than a janitor, he said. Keemer’s son, also named Terry, and the son’s girlfriend were tormented for having an interracial relationship as well, their family said.
A town hall will be planned to talk about the charges raised by the NAACP at 7 p.m. on March 20 at Mt. Zion United Methodist in Pasadena. Perhaps the conversations about Chesapeake can prompt other schools to confront difficult patterns of racist occurrences so that things will improve in the future. It’s past time for schools nationwide to truly face the music.