Whoever said “racism will go away once older generations of white people die off” severely underestimates how much bigotry gets passed down from one generation to the next. They also need to pay more attention to how often young white people behave in a manner that shows apples not falling far from their trees.
College-age whites tend to demonstrate a prime example of said behavior judging from the numerous instances of students donning blackface on campus to attendees at college sports events who, through their excitement and pride for their schools, reveal their racism by attacking black athletes.
According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Amherst College has placed its men’s lacrosse program on probation canceling its 2020 postseason along with all formal team gatherings until November following an incident first reported by the Amherst Student earlier this month. Apparently, members of the team, the Mammoths, chanted “nigger” at a black team member who then punched one of his teammates for the offense. The team members have also been required to take an educational course chosen by provost and dean of the faculty Catherine Epstein, athletic director Don Faulstick and the chief diversity and inclusion officer.
The exact contents of that course are unclear and, if we’re being honest, this has “ineffective diversity training” written all over it, but that doesn’t mean officials at Amherst are not dead serious about holding everyone involved in this incident accountable. In fact, they’re so serious that according to the Gazette, college officials fired the team’s head coach of nearly 10 years, Jon Thompson, despite the fact that he led the Mammoths to its first national championship game last season, closing out the year ranked at no. 7 in the nation. As much as colleges gain from the success of their sports teams, you have to admit that is some pretty strong conviction.
Following the incident, Dean Epstein sent a letter to the Amherst College community pointing out that this was actually only one of several incidents of bigoted or otherwise unruly behavior surrounding the team, including transphobia aimed at staff members and vandalism in dorms.
“Participation in athletics at Amherst is a privilege, not a right,” Epstein wrote. “Amherst athletes are required to follow the behavioral standards set by the athletic department and the College honor code as well. We realize that not every student on the men’s lacrosse team has actively participated in the violations that have come to light. However, as with any group or organization on our campus, teammates are accountable to each other and, as a team, also to the larger community. In short, we cannot ignore the harmful culture that exists on the men’s lacrosse team, and its damage to our community.”
So yeah, please don’t fall into the trap of believing that white Baby Boomers and their predecessors leaving the Earth will somehow eradicate racism. Bigotry and prejudice are not solely attached to the age groups that witnessed Jim Crow first-hand. They’re societal, systematic, and most importantly, taught and learned over time. All we can do is continue to educate, fight against it and if need be, punch a few white people in the face.