WBTV Community Conversation: Reading, Writing, and Race

Updated: May. 17, 2019 at 3:33 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In 2017, more than 7,000 hate crimes were reported across the county, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A majority of those hate crimes happened because of somebody’s race.

The FBI report also shows that a little more than 10% of those hate crimes happened inside schools and colleges. These numbers prompted WBTV to take a closer look inside our classrooms.

WBTV has reported on several racial incidents that have happened inside schools and in our communities over the last few months.

One incident involved the Mallard Creek High School Girls Volleyball Team. The team traveled to Lake Norman High School this past school year for a game and was greeted by racial and sexist slurs by students in the stands.

The situation was so bad the Iredell-Statesville School Superintendent offered Mallard Creek HS an apology.

We also reported a few years ago during an Ardrey Kell High School football game, the principal cleared the entire student section because students were drunk, vaping and yelled a racial slur at another student.

This school year an Ardrey Kell High School basketball player used the "N" word to describe students who attend West Charlotte High School. People in the community are concerned about what’s happening and have noticed a change in some people’s behavior.

RELATED: Ardrey Kell suspends basketball player before West Charlotte game for using racial slur

“A lot of people have also been a little more emboldened,” Charlotte Neighbor Tiffany Hunt said. “To maybe express feelings that they had internally and they are expressing them externally now. It makes you feel unsafe at times.”

Many question what is the reason behind people's behavior. Some think students are being racially insensitive because of what's happening in the environment, others think it's more personal.

"What happens in the schools is a direct relationship as to what's being taught and communicated in the home," Charlotte Neighbor Anthony Rose said. "And if we really want to address that - we have to address that one case at a time in our homes."

North Carolina State Superintendent Mark Johnson used to teach at West Charlotte High School. He was concerned when he heard that an Ardrey Kell HS student used the "N" word to describe West Charlotte High School students.

"No one should be using that language to talk about another person period." State Superintendent Mark Johnson said.

Johnson says he is ready to launch a campaign that will emphasize students should show kindness and respect to each other especially when communicating to each other online. He says the program will start this summer so it will be in full effect when school starts back up in the fall. This initiative will also be a good reminder for parents.

"Parents hey monitor what your students are doing on social media," the State Superintendent said. "Know what they are saying because there are some places on social media we should just get students out of, but also we are going to do this in the fall around school safety."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) doesn’t document racial incidents in schools, but students we talked to say it does happen. Reaction from students were very clear when this story happened. They disapproved of their peer using the "N" word to describe other CMS students. Independence High School is very diverse and students say that type of language is uncalled for.

“It was very infuriating,” Independence High School Student Haley said. “Because we as a society should be past such comments and words -blatantly disrespectful.”

Haley attends Independence High School. About 10 different ethnicities are represented at Independence HS. The students and staff get along with all races at their school.

"It's thought provoking," Haley said. "Because when you speak to someone else - you can learn from them and you can learn a different culture."

People in the community wished what's happening inside Independence HS could be transferred to other parts of the city. Some believe the racial incidents that have happened show a conversation needs to take place about race. They believe it's an uncomfortable talk but it can help.

"It's been long overdue," Charlotte visitor Stanley Fernandez said. "And no one wants to speak on it."

WBTV’s Community Conversation: Reading, Writing, and Race discusses the use of the "N" word and why it is still used today. Clinton College Professor Dr. Reginald Broadnax sat down and gave his thoughts about the origin of the "N" word.

"It was always used to dehumanize African American people from its inception when we came on the shores in 1619," Clinton College African American Studies Professor Dr. Reginald Broadnax said. "It was always a question whether or not African Americans were actually human beings - so the word is used to say that you are something other than a white person - other than a human being."

We asked the Professor why young people still use the word.

"Maybe it was that lack of familiarity that allows us to use it so freely," Broadnax said. "Maybe because we have gotten away from the context from the 50's and 60's or even the 70's for that matter - when I was called the word. Maybe because we got away from that context young people today are not familiar."

The conversation also included students from Independence High school and other schools. They will told us how they keep harmony in the classrooms when dealing with different races. We also talked to students who claim they are greeted with race issues regularly in school. Despite the race issues some schools face in schools - many think things are getting better but not soon enough.

"I've got children from three different generations," Rose said. "And the way they talk about race relations, the way they have been brought up in a diverse society and community - I would say there is hope - whether it's sooner rather than later - I don't know."

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