Did I always know that when the OPRF teams played Hinsdale Central, our kids were called the “N” word by both Hinsdale players and fans? Where did I store that information in my psyche? I lived in Hinsdale when my kids were in high school (we all disliked it), but I didn’t go to sports events. I was, however, shocked to find out that some of the white kids were allowed by their parents to use the “N” word, and that their parents used it. One parent in particular was frequently in Washington as a member of one of President Reagan’s advisory teams.

After Episode 3 of America to Me, I was explaining to an old friend from my days living in DC that she should watch it. I told her about the episode where our football team members were subjected to the “N” word by Hinsdale Central players and fans. Her reply was, “Why wasn’t Hinsdale kicked out of the league?” I had no answer. As far as I knew, OPRF had never taken any such action against HC. But why indeed? Further, she said, “Why haven’t any of the Chicago papers done an expose?” (Her son is an investigative reporter for ESPN). Again, I had no answer. I’m pretty sure we have many Chicago reporters living in Oak Park.

Then I heard that some of our all-white sports teams are also called the “N” word when playing other all-white high schools. Whaat?

To allow this abuse is an assault on basic human dignity. You can’t try to pass off such language as “trash talk,” something to build up our side’s confidence and intimidate the other side — boys will be boys and all that crap.

(Forget that black people use the word with each other; maybe it’s some way of voiding its toxicity.)

I would hate to be the one telling a roomful of parents of athletes that we are going to stop playing any school that insults — really, assaults — our players and further, we are going to take action to have those schools fined or removed from play. It’s hard to rock the boat when kids of every color have been looking forward to playing at OPRF and some are depending on getting college scholarships.

But here’s the point. White people wouldn’t want it to happen to our kids.

If I’m getting anything out of America to Me, it’s that we have to look at black kids as our own children. We have to care as much about what happens to them as we do about what happens to our own kids.

Trouble is, I don’t know what shape that behavior would take. I’m almost positive it doesn’t mean more consultants, studies and committees. But it might mean spending some big bucks on lawyers to go after anyone from another school district who mistreats our children. 

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Mary Kay O'Grady

Mary Kay O'Grady is a former high school English teacher and later owned her own public relations business, The O'Grady Group. She has lived in Oak Park for almost fifteen years. She is currently the chairperson...