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By Gina Channell Wilcox

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About this blog: I've been involved in news media for more than 30 years in a number of roles in the newsroom ? from editorial assistant to "cops" reporter to executive editor. Currently I am the president and publisher of Embarcadero Media Group'...  (More)

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A considerable grain of salt

Uploaded: Oct 10, 2022
What happened with the cheer / stunt team at California High School last school year has bothered me for several months.

The way I see it, 28 teen girls were thrown under the bus to justify a school district’s large expenditure for personnel who would not have a role in the classroom. However, that’s not the only vexing aspect of this.

Last May, the California High School cheer and stunt team came under fire when "Black Bay Area" posted an image of a varsity cheerleader posing with a Black cosmetology mannequin. The text with the photo read "All white cheer squad with black mannequin head as the varsity team mascot," the cheer team's handle and "This is in San Ramon! Mind you they haven't had a black girl on the varsity team since 2019 & it was only 1 girl! This year they have no black girls on the varsity except the mascot the black doll head name (sic) Kareem."

Soon after images were posted on social media platforms Instagram and TikTok, they went viral.

The Instagram and TikTok posts went viral. Outrage and indignation ensued, albeit predicated on false information. Then the district basically confirmed and perpetuated the claim of racism when San Ramon Valley Unified School District Superintendent John Malloy did not give the correct information but told broadcast news outlets, "We don't accept (what happened) and we understand it's wrong. We understand it's harming some members in the community... that is not okay."

An email sent to the district’s parents and stakeholders said the team "has a mascot that has had a hurtful racist impact, and we are deeply troubled by the harm that this situation has caused both in our school community and beyond. The mascot, which is a dark-skinned head that would be used in a cosmetology class, is intolerable for its offensive and racist implications."

The girls were harassed and threatened incessantly, both online and on campus.

Sacrificing children to achieve an agenda goal is wrong. But I’m also bothered that so many people never questioned the post, its origin, the district’s statements – anything. Even intelligent, fair-minded people I respect never thought to look at the post, compare it to a photo of the real mascot or refer to anything except the soundbites provided by the district.

The photo was manipulated, and the “offensive and racist implications” were manufactured, just as the audience was manipulated and the outrage manufactured.

I understand the mannequin’s skin tone isn’t porcelain white, nor is its hair blonde. However, it’s obvious the skin tone on the mannequin in the photo was darkened with editing software. When the photo is enlarged, you can see the added color bleeds onto the hand of the girl holding the doll.

The team is not “all-white”; at the time of the controversy, six of the members identified as African American. And the mannequin’s name, which is stamped on the back of the neck, is “Karine,” not “Kareem.”

Karine had been the team’s unofficial mascot for years, and no one has ever – ever – filed a complaint, or even commented on it.

The cheerleaders' parents, who demanded Malloy be fired for not correcting the bad information and allowing the students to be bullied, believe the post was fabricated in revenge by an unidentified "disgruntled mother" of an African American student who didn't make the final roster.

The angry parents attended the June 7 SRVUSD board meeting and spoke during public comment about their fear for their daughters’ safety. Malloy responded that he and his cabinet were fully aware of everything the parents said about the photo being manipulated, the team not being “all white,” the name discrepancy and the history of the mascot.

At the same meeting, the board approved hiring 15 “equity liaisons” at a cost of $2 million.

Much to my chagrin, a few weeks ago I was talking with a district employee who had no idea the mannequin in the social media post was a different color than the actual unofficial mascot, or that the inflammatory wording on the post was inaccurate.

It’s disheartening that so many people immediately thought the worst of these teens without so much as questioning the origin of and motives behind the post and subsequent statements. Information in situations like this – situations that can cause harm and life-altering problems for 28 young people as well as further divide a community – should be taken with a very considerable grain of salt.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Malcolm Hex, a resident of San Ramon,
on Oct 10, 2022 at 11:19 pm

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

Good post Gina.

I remember when President Reagan said: Trust, but verify. I never forgot that, and live by it. However, it appears many people ignore facts these days, and believe everything they hear. Worse, when people turn a blind eye to the truth, bad things happen - which you explained well in this story.

Much of what you stated in your story is akin to deliberate indifference. As you stated: fair-minded people you respect never thought to look at the post, compare it to a photo of the real mascot, or refer to anything except the soundbites provided by the district. However, those people knew there was a problem, and chose to look the other way - a conscious, reckless action on their part.

Good for you Gina to expose the truth.

Posted by D, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 11, 2022 at 7:03 am

D is a registered user.

Absolutely fantastic column! This is the old school journalism that does not pander to one political party or ideology, but rather takes an objective, analytic analysis of an issue, in a straight forward, logical fashion. Finding the truth, not reaching a politically correct answer, is what journalism should be all about. Thank you Gina for restoring my faith that some true journalism still exist in this world.

Instead of hiring "equity liaisons", the district should hire people to teach critical thinking skills, and start by teaching the School Superintendent and his administrators, and then the teachers, students, and parents.

Show the classic film, "The Emperor Has No Clothes", so students understand the importance of thinking and searching for the truth, and not being paralyzed in saying and doing what is currently politically correct.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Castlewood,
on Oct 11, 2022 at 6:39 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

Gina is (portion removed) a concerned citizen and journalist - THANKS KEVIN!

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