Two days after a video showing two C.K. McClatchy High School students using racist slurs and wearing blackface was shared online, the Sacramento City Unified school board at its Thursday meeting decried acts of racism and demanded the students be punished.
“We cannot act expeditiously enough, because children are hurting and a community is being ripped apart,” said board president Jessie Ryan, who was nearly brought to tears talking about the issue. “I am personally requesting that appropriate disciplinary action be taken against those students that posted the racist video. I have seen black and brown students disciplined for far less.”
Trustee Mai Vang said she was “extremely angry and disappointed,” and said more effort needed to be taken to address anti-black sentiment in the district in general.
“It involves really listening to the experiences and challenges faced by the black community,” Vang said. “And it’s really about working alongside activists, community leaders, our parents and folks in the audience together to change policy and reform the system that negatively impacts black and brown students.”
But Lorreen Pryor, one of five African American community members who condemned the racist video and the school board during public comment, was not swayed by trustees’ words.
“I want to see action. I’m not really worried about what they’re saying,” she told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s great to deliver statements and everything, but when there’s no action that backs up what you said, we’re going to keep going through the same (problems).”
Pryor, a member of the Black Youth Leadership Project, lambasted the board for its alleged past inaction and allowing a pattern of racist incidents at McClatchy High, including a student science project in February that questioned whether some races lacked the intelligence to succeed in the school’s elite magnet program.
“Here we are again,” she told the board. “This is absolutely ridiculous. Who’s protecting black students in Sac City Unified School District? … We want zero tolerance for racism on your campuses. Our kids should not have to start school in fear of their peers, knowing that y’all aren’t doing anything.”
Betty Williams, president of the Sacramento chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a news release Wednesday that the NAACP has received complaints in the past from black students at McClatchy “regarding their treatment on campus by fellow students.”
Allegra Taylor of Sacramento ACT, an advocacy group, said at the meeting that there’s a double-standard – she thinks if black McClatchy students had posted an offensive video online, they would have already been suspended or expelled.
“The same way you quickly penalize, suspend, expel black children is the same way we want to see you quickly deal with these two children of privilege, who felt that they had a right to do what they did,” Taylor told the board. “It was cruel, it was hatred, it was racist, and we want you to do something about it.”
The video, shared on Facebook Tuesday by Black Lives Matter Sacramento, shows a male and a female wearing blackface. In the first scene, the male says “I don’t think this bird likes n------”; in the second scene, he says “Hi, n-----” as the female laughs.
Superintendent Jorge Aguilar said in a statement Wednesday that the district was investigating the incident. Spokesman Alex Barrios said Sac City believed the people in the video attend McClatchy, but hadn’t verified their identities as of Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday, he said he could not provide more details about the investigation because the students are under 18, seemingly indicating the district now knows who the students are.