The father of a 16-year-old Black student said his son was called a “gorilla” by another student while he was playing a high school basketball game on Friday. According to KING 5, the incident occurred during a match between River Ridge High School and Capital High School in Olympia, Washington.
The boy’s father, Qayi Steplight, said his son is a student at River Ridge High School. “This has to be taken on, full head,” Steplight said in reference to the incident.
And though the incident was captured on video, Steplight said he only saw it after the game. And that was after one of the students who were taunting his son shared the footage online. “He tagged Ahmari in the video because they wanted him to see what they were saying about him,” Steplight said.
Steplight also said he had to let his son know the word that was yelled at him wasn’t just mere banter. That was after the 16-year-old showed him the video. “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,” he said, adding that the incident also brought back memories of the racism he faced during his teenage years.
“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.
Following the incident, Olympia School District superintendent, Patrick Murphy, released a statement saying an investigation was conducted and disciplinary action had subsequently been taken.
“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,” Murphy said.
And though Capital High School’s principal and athletic director apologized to Steplight over the incident, the father said he’s yet to hear from the superintendent and the student who yelled the word at his son.