LAGUNA HILLS (CBSLA) — A Laguna Hills High School student unleashed a flurry of racial slurs directed at the only Black player on Portola High School's boy's basketball team during a game last week.
A cell phone camera captured the flurry of slurs directed at the player during the Jan. 21 varsity game between Portola High, which is located in Irvine, and Laguna Hills High. In the video, the racist taunts go on for about a minute. The unidentified student is heard saying, "Where is his slave owner?" and "Chain him up, chain him up," among many other slurs.
"I was enraged, hurt," Sabrina Little-Brown, the mother of the Portola High School player, told CBSLA Tuesday. "To know that a child has that much ignorance, hatred and disdain for someone they do not even know is absolutely hurtful."
Little-Brown and her husband went to the Irvine City Council meeting Tuesday evening to share their outrage after they claimed the hate-filled rant directed at their son Makai continued for the entire game, and no one stepped in to stop it. They also accused Laguna Hills High's head varsity coach of being verbally abusive to their son.
"I actually feel sorry for the kid and his parents because I fully expect they will punish and reprimand him," said Terrell Brown, Makai's father. "But I don't know if that's going to change the culture we experienced at Laguna Hills High School."
According to Little-Brown, her son heard the racial slurs while watching game film the next day. Her family doesn't think that this is an isolated incident, and they want it to end before another innocent person is hurt.
"My son was targeted." she said on Wednesday. "We're trying to get the message out that it isn't just solely about this one kid."
She said Laguna Hills High has identified the student who was yelling the slurs and the school is currently investigating what disciplinary action to take. She said the school also issued an apology. CBSLA asked Laguna Hills High for a comment and are awaiting a response.
"My son is resilient, and he understands that, unfortunately, there are ignorant people in this world, and that ignorance is perpetuated through generations," Little-Brown said.
Dr. Crystal Turner, superintendent for Saddleback Valley Unified School District, which includes Laguna Hills High, issued a statement Tuesday which acknowledged that racist rants were from a Laguna High student. Her statement read, in part:
"The language and connotations expressed by the words used do not represent the culture, attitudes, or feelings of the students and staff of LHHS, nor those of SVUSD. LHHS is taking action. The student and been counseled, and immediate, appropriate consequences and discipline have taken place."
Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan also issued a statement late Tuesday night on Facebook:
"Tonight Vice Mayor Anthony Kuo brought up the incident involving racist hateful comments directed towards one of our Portola High basketball players. I've read the response from Saddleback School District & it's not good enough. When we say we will not tolerate hate, we mean it. I will be sending out a letter demanding more. I want to see action taken that sends a clear message to everyone that there are serious consequences to hate & racist speech. No mother should be brought to tears about the way her child is bullied."
According to the Portola High School online news publication, this instance of hate has happened to others. Two cheerleaders detailed the slurs that were directed at them during games against Laguna Hills.
"They were just calling me the 'N word' and coming after my weight and stuff," said cheerleader Alexa Beccerra, who is biracial. "So, it was really direspectful."
Emma Haag, another cheerleaders, said that the same group called her an anti-Asian slur. "It makes me feel more angry than anything, but it's also really disappointing," she said.
Khan confirmed that she has also received reports of other racist incidents stemming from Laguna Hills High, and in response she has taken action. "I am asking SVUSD to conduct an investigation into the coach and other staff regarding their involvement in incidents like this and bring forward appropriate actions taken," she said on Wednesday. "As a community, we cannot collectively end systemic racism until there are consequences to actions."
Less than a week after the incident, the Portola High School basketball team, student body, faculty and staff gathered for the team's first home game since Brown and several others were the target of racial slurs. "This is an opportunity for us to stand together," said Portola High School Principal John Pehrson on Wednesday.
That sentiment was met with outrageous support from friends, family and fans alike.
Duncan Pritchard, a parent who attended Wednesday's game game was shocked that behavior like this could come from such a community, "They're very privileged children here. They've got an excellent education, and they're taught about these things, so I just don't understand," said
"Not only is it heartbreaking but it's also eye opening," Portola High's ASB President Amitoj Singh told CBS reporters at the game, "Seeing this happen just reminded me that there's a lot more work that needs to be done."
While they were able to gather and support their classmate, many of the students were still taken aback. They admitted that living in a "bubble" like the suburban communities of Irvine has often shielded them from the harsh realities of life and humanity.
"This issue of racism has permeated deep into the minds of students and adults everywhere," said junior Jett Fukudo.
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