Qayi Steplight said his son shrugged off the incident saying, “that’s just what they call us.”
The superintendent of the Olympia School District in Washington claims disciplinary action has been taken after a student was captured on camera yelling a racial slur at a basketball player.
The disturbing incident occurred at Capital High School on Jan. 14 during a basketball game against River Ridge High School, KING5 reported. In a video shared on social media, students at Capital are heard making ape noises at 16-year-old Ahmari, a Black player on the rival team. One student even calls him a “gorilla.” This student reportedly posted the video of the moment online and that’s when Ahmari’s father saw it.
“He tagged Ahmari in the video because they wanted him to see what they were saying about him,” said Qayi Steplight, the teen’s father.
The “gorilla” slur was used by slaveowners and white supremacists who associated Black people with apes.
“Those are words that they use to describe Black people when they want to be derogatory, and I had to explain to him, this is something more than just basketball,” Steplight said.
“I’ve been called monkeys and gorillas. I’ve been called a lot of different names. So it was like deja vu and I was frustrated that my son had to deal with that,” Steplight said. He took to his Facebook account to share the video to bring attention to the incident.
“For those of you who don’t know. My son was targeted at the River Ridge High School (Lacey, Washington) vs Capital High School basketball game,” Steplight wrote in the post. “The student body at Capital High School were yelling racial epithets during the game directed toward My son. One of the students recorded a video and shared it on social media and even tagged my son in the video.”
In a statement shared online Wednesday, the superintendent of the Olympia School District, Patrick Murphy, said disciplinary action was taken following an investigation into the incident.
“As the superintendent, it is incumbent upon me to work with our school leaders and staff to ensure that when student actions cause harm, there is accountability, learning and an opportunity to restore and make amends with those who have been hurt,” the statement said in part. “This incident was promptly investigated, discipline was issued and restorative work is ongoing.”
Steplight said Capital High School’s principal and athletic director apologized to him, but he has not yet heard from the racist student who called his son a gorilla. He also went on to explain a painful part of his past.
“There’s a line drawn in the sand: Thurston County and then Olympia. If you go into Olympia, you don’t know what you’re going to get. You know you’re not welcome. Every time we’re at football games, basketball, baseball, whatever, we get consistent stories from families about how we’re treated,” Steplight said.
“They used to paint their faces black at Capital and Olympia games. Everyone seemed like it was OK. The parents there, the staff at the top of the bleachers, nobody ever says anything,” he continued. “Everyone is too scared to say or do anything. I’ve been around enough families and kids, people feel like nothing is going to ever happen.”
When he asked his son about the “gorilla” incident after the basketball game, Steplight said his son shrugged it off and replied, “That’s just what they call us.”
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