At a school in the southern US, classmates hurl racial slurs at one of their peers and regularly talk about lynchings, according to one parent’s account. But, perhaps surprisingly, we aren’t talking about hate speech at a college or university.
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 heartbreaking letter Waddy wrote describing an example of the abuse from a week ago.
Business Insider spoke with Waddy’s mother, Zettrona Powell, to hear in her words what her family has had to endure.
“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 but has been a longstanding problem for her family since they moved to Yorkstown nearly four years ago, she said. And she says the school seems 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.
With regard to the most recent allegations of racial slurs directed toward her son, she said she reached out to the district superintendent and that he passed her off to another administrator. She believes 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 and will update this post if we hear back.
She worries this kind of 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 only directed at her son. She knows other students who have suffered similar abuse, including another boy on the football team who doesn’t want to to tell his parents.
“I think it’s normal because they continue to get a slap on the wrist,” she said.
For its part, The York County School System released 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.
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.”
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