A full week after Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley was forced from her job by an angry school board, CCSD has officially released a two-page report on the Academic Magnet High School watermelon ritual. CCSD also released two pages of brief notes from interviews with students and coaches. According to those notes, some of the students were apparently aware of the racially offensive nature of their actions.
Surely, this comes as a shock to everyone who read the earlier P&C report indicating that CCSD had determined that the actions of the entire AMHS squad were totally and completely racism free. But now it’s clear that bill of colorblind health was based upon a misreading of the two-page report. Pro-tip: “Some” and “most” are not substitutes for “all.”
In the interview notes I received this morning, one student said that players knew that by engaging in the ritualistic smashing of the watermelon named Bonds Wilson, “some would take it the wrong way” (Bonds-Wilson was the name of the former African-American high school where AMHS now stands, in addition to being the name of the campus shared by both AMHS and School of the Arts). In order to continue their ritual of smashing a watermelon decorated with an apparent racist caricature — “squiggly hair, smile, big eyes, buck teeth” — all while reportedly making monkey sounds, “they waited to get back to AMHS” to smash it after one football game.
According to the interview notes, another student seemingly acknowledged that “chants – could be interpreted as offensive.” (AMHS’s opponents were, by and large, predominately African-American teams.)
One player admitted that he knew the team had been accused of “monkey chants” before the interviews. CCSD officials also noted that “stories are too consistent among the seniors – side jokes – racial humor ” and that one player indicated he would engage in the watermelon ritual again. (The report notes that players apparently discussed the matter in the locker room days before they were interviewed by CCSD.)
As for the coaches’ involvement, players say that the coaches knew about the ritual early on and had given their approval, and in at least one case, a coach apparently handed the watermelon over to the players before the ritual began.
As for Coach Bud Walpole, the report notes that Walpole was “defensive,” and as a solution to the problem, offered to have the students smash the watermelon behind AMHS. According to the report, Walpole “asserted that he knew of the smashing but was ‘too occupied’ with responsibilities to pay close attention. He reluctantly acknowledged he should and have been more aware and taken an active intervention in the process. The coach admonished the players … for smashing the watermelon in the quad [of AMHS] but not any other activity.”
Some AMHS parents also witnessed the watermelon ritual, according to the notes.
CCSD also “identified the senior player responsible for the drawing and he provided a drawing during the interview,” according to the report. They added, “It was clearly in our opinion a monkey face.”
In the two-page report, CCSD also noted, “Some of the seniors expressed an attitude of if ‘someone is offended by the watermelon that is their problem and not ours.'” The school district added, “We also believe this attitude of most of the players reflects a true lack of understanding and respect for dignity and respect for other races.”
I don’t know about you, but all of that paints a pretty unflattering picture of both the players and Coach Walpole. After all, we’ve been told time and time again that AMHS students are the most tolerant students in all the land, and as such, such blatant disregard for other people is unimaginable. But clearly, the unimaginable is very much imaginable.