Another US school has been identified as a place where racial slurs are a fact of life for at least one student, whose mother describes classmates who regularly talk about lynchings. Unlike the racial tensions recently exposed at Yale and the University of Missouri, however, this hate speech comes not at a college, but at a middle school.
It’s directed at Za’Khari Waddy, an eighth-grader at Tabb Middle School, whose mother says he has suffered unimaginable racism at his in Yorktown, Virginia, middle school.
Shaun King at The Daily News first reported on the story, detailing the abuse and featuring a letter Waddy wrote describing an example of the abuse from a week ago.
The letter read:
To Whom It May Concern:
Yesterday on the football bus coming from our football game a kid … started saying racist things to me. He then started saying he does not like blacks and he told me 200 years ago my ancestors hung from a tree and after he said that I should I hang from a tree. That made me super mad, so in the locker room I told him not to call me n***** or that I should be hung on a tree. The coaches took me away from the kid because I was really mad and they think I was going to fight him but I want someone to do something about it because I’m tired of boys messing with me because of my skin. I’m at my boiling point with this. Please do something about this because when I bring it to the office/principle you do nothing about it and I’m tired of the racism.
“My son has been asked if he was going to rape a young lady or rob her,” Powell told Business Insider. “He has been called the N-word on the school bus and in the school, and pushed into lockers, told that his ancestors hung from the trees 200 hundred years ago and that he should as well.”
This type of abuse isn’t confined to a particular instance, she said, but has been a longstanding problem for her family since they moved to Yorktown nearly four years ago. And she said the school seemed unconcerned with the abuse.
She says she has spoken with the school’s principal on many occasions but often feels her concerns are brushed aside.
(Screengrab via ABC)
Regarding the most recent allegations of racial slurs directed toward her son, she said that she reached out to the district superintendent and that he passed her off to another administrator. She thinks that once again her complaint will fall by the wayside. As of the time of this post, she said, the school administrator hadn’t contacted her.
Business Insider has reached out to the principal and district superintendent for comment.
The York County School System did release a statement online responding to the claims.
“We would like to assure our community that the school administration took immediate steps to investigate the report and that appropriate disciplinary actions were taken in accordance with the division’s student conduct code, division policies, and procedures,” the statement said.
Powell worries the abuse will have long-term effects on her young son. “Thank God my son isn’t the type of child that would take his own life because of words like that,” Powell said.
The racism is baked into the school’s culture, according to Powell, who described the following chant that students have recited: “One, two, three, four, look at that n—– at the door.”
Powell also says the racism isn’t directed only at her son. She says she knows other students who have suffered similar abuse, including another boy on the football team who doesn’t want to tell his parents.
“I think it’s normal because they continue to get a slap on the wrist,” she said.
But Powell doesn’t believe the school has gone far enough to punish racism at the school. “The same way they suspend somebody for 10 days for getting in a fight, it’s the same thing with words,” she said.
“You can’t take that back. You can’t just say you should be hung from a tree. The effect you have once those words are released from your tongue are everlasting.”