'She's Black. I Hate That': Dance Coach Told Student Her Skin Was 'Too Dark,' Suit Claims

Illustration for article titled 'She's Black. I Hate That': Dance Coach Told Student Her Skin Was 'Too Dark,' Suit Claims
Photo: iStock

Before reading this any further, allow me to inform you that this is not one of those cases that can be whitesplained away by people who purchase their motor oil and clothing from the same place. It wasn’t a “simple misunderstanding.” These people were not “set in their ways.” These were old-school, “we don’t like negras” racism (That’s how they pronounced it back in those days...In 2017).


In a story that makes white nationalist Rep. Steve King (R-Whitekanda) look like a distant cousin of Martin Luther King Jr., a black student is suing a Kansas high school for hiring a coach who was the Bill Belichick of racism.

The Root has obtained copies of a civil complaint filed by Camille Sturdivant against her former high school, a teacher in the school district, the principal and the former dance coach at the high school. The documents contain a litany of allegations that show a history of racist incidents by teachers, the “Caucasian Coach” and...well...everybody.

According to court documents, in 2017, Sturdivant was a senior at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kan. Sturdivant had made the Dazzlers dance team her sophomore, junior and senior year, and was one of only two black students on the 14-member squad.

As the team prepared over the summer for the upcoming school year, Sturdivant’s suit claims that the team’s choreographer, Kevin Murakami, told Sturdivant that she couldn’t perform the contemporary dance with the team, explaining that Sturdivant’s skin clashed with the color of the uniforms. Murakami added that Sturdivant black skin would cause the audience to look at Sturdivant and not the other dancers.

You know how people pay attention to the black dancer in a roomful of white people? Apparently, it’s because of the tint of our skin and not that white people move like first-generation sex robots.

The choreographer allegedly did this “on behalf of and in conjunction with” Carley Fine, who served as the (and I swear the lawsuit says this) “Caucasian Coach of the Dazzlers.” When Sturdivant’s parents met with the principal and informed her of the dance coach’s actions, the principal told the parents that Caucasian Coach Fine had the authority to pick whomever she wanted for the dance routines.

Illustration for article titled 'She's Black. I Hate That': Dance Coach Told Student Her Skin Was 'Too Dark,' Suit Claims
Screenshot: US District Court

Nevertheless, Sturdivant remained on the team because, to be honest, Sturdivant is black. If black people removed themselves from every situation where racism occurred or white people treated them poorly, we’d all be sitting in our rooms playing Call of Duty pretending every virtual kill was a Caucasian Coach.


Later that year, Sturdivant received news that she had not only been accepted to the University of Missouri but that she also made the university’s dance team, the Golden Girls (I think Sturdivant was going to be Blanche. Or maybe Rose. Definitely not Dorothy. Don’t insult her like that.) Sturdivant told her team and iCarley, the Caucasian Coach, about her achievements and they seemed happy.

But one day, Caucasian Coach Fine handed Sturdivant her phone to play some music for dance practice. (I’m guessing it was a white android, because they make the best Caucasian calls). While trying to navigate through the wypipo playlist, Sturdivant noticed a few text messages between Caucasian Coach Fine and Murakami about another white student who didn’t make the Missouri Golden Girls (not even as Dorothy):

Murakami: I can’t believe Maggie didn’t make it again. I’m heart broken.

Fine: AND CAMILLE (Sturdivant) MADE MENS. I can’t talk about it.

Murakami: THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad.” Fine: It actually makes my stomach hurt.

Murakami: haha (emoji)

Fine: Bc she’s fucking black. I hate that

Murakami: me too.

“Sturdivant was sickened,” the suit says.

So Sturdivant’s parents took screenshots of the racist text messages to the principal. Fine was subsequently fired, banned from campus and barred from contacting Sturdivant. See? They fixed the racism.


Well...not quite.

What really happened was that the beloved Caucasian Coach kept working with the team and the team just excluded Sturdivant from activities. They had pizza parties and didn’t tell Sturdivant. They had an entire team banquet but told Sturdivant and her parents that the banquet was canceled, according to the suit.


The other dancers continued to support their white fired coach, simply moving the events off school property and excluding Sturdivant. One parent even told other parents that Caucasian Coach Carley was fired for saying “something racial to Camille (Sturdivant), but it was blown out of proportion.”

The final straw was on the team’s last performance of the year, which would be Sturdivant’s last performance of her high school career. All of the team, except for the two black members, showed up for the performance wearing purple ribbons with Caucasian Carley’s initials on them.


Sturdivant alleges that her exclusion and discrimination was partially enabled and sanctioned by another teammate’s parent, Katie Porter, who is defined as a (again, check the documents) “Caucasian third-grade teacher at Cottonwood Elementary.” Sturdivant’s lawsuit says that, as an employee of the school district, Caucasian Teacher Porter is also liable for damages.

Sturdivant graduated from Blue Valley High School in May 2018 and now charges that the school allowed the discrimination to continue; that her civil rights were violated; that the school hired a racist and that the district failed to properly train the principal, the Caucasian Coach and the Caucasian teacher. The suit says Sturdivant “continues to suffer from great pain of mind, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, degradation, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, missed educational opportunities, humiliation, and pain and suffering.”


And if you think that’s a bit much, I hope it doesn’t make you so so mad that your stomach actually hurts. Racism can do that.

Read the full complaint below.

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Her teammates are assholes. All of them. Every single one of them complicit.

p.s. Dorothy was the best Golden Girl.