Father speaks out after video shows Black student athlete being called slurs during game

A father in Lacey is speaking out against racism after his son was the victim of a derogatory video. 

Qayi Steplight said racism should have no place in his community, and definitely not at a high school basketball game. However, he said that’s exactly what was spewed at his 16-year-old son.

"I needed to move forward and set the example that we’re not going to tolerate this," said Steplight.

A student at Capital High School in Olympia recorded a video while sitting in the stands during a basketball game at the school on Jan. 17. Steplight’s son is the point guard of the opposing team. The student is heard in the video calling Steplight’s son derogatory names as he dribbled down the court.

"But then it got more derogatory when they started calling him a gorilla and then you can hear the student section start to hear the gorilla sound and then you can see some of them do the hand gestures," said Steplight.

The Capital student posted the video to social media that evening, and even tagged Steplight’s son. The father said he found out about the video from someone sending it to him, which by that time, it was already circulating online. Steplight said he immediately turned his attention to his child.

"He thought they were just taunting and I said ‘well no, there’s a difference between taunting and them talking about how you look, and specifically saying key words that have been referenced as far as how to describe Black people when you want to be derogatory,’" said Steplight.

Though Steplight’s four children are not enrolled in the Olympia School District, his kids have competed against several of the district’s teams. He said this isn’t the first time he has witnessed this behavior from OSD students and parents on game days.

"I kind of described it as a bubble. I feel like there’s a lot of anger and resentment, and there’s a lot of issues here dealing with race and discrimination. And I think with the video, it bursted the bubble because it’s proof. It’s not just people complaining or saying this is what’s going on. It’s like we can pull it up and we can see it," said Steplight.

Superintendent Patrick Murphy said he is aware hurtful acts like this occurring. In a written statement, he said the incident was promptly investigated and discipline was issued.

"When something of this nature happens in a school district or organization, we sometimes hear responsive statements that the act "is not who we are," or that it is "not a reflection of what we stand for." I do not subscribe to those viewpoints. This incident and others, like those reported in the article, are committed by those of us in this community. We are the community," wrote Murphy. "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."

Steplight said he met with Capital’s principal and athletic director to talk about how to move forward. He said he hopes the offensive act will be a lesson for everyone in Olympia School District.

"You have to stand up," said Steplight. "They need to be held responsible and need to be held accountable. And if I have to continue to speak up in that sense then I will."

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