Questions/concerns can be sent to CantonAlumsAgainstRacism@gmail.com.
OPEN LETTER TEXT:
As alumni and members of the extended Canton High School community, we condemn racism in all forms. We were dismayed to hear that a small group of Canton students taunted black and Hispanic basketball players from Hartford’s Classical Magnet School by chanting “Trump” during a game in Canton on February 28. As a multi-racial group of Canton alums, the meaning of this chant was not lost on us. Donald Trump ran a campaign fueled by fear and anger toward immigrants and Muslims. He has filled his cabinet with appointees hostile to racial progress and has demonstrated in his first 50 days that he fully intends to put his campaign promises into action. We know there are those who would prefer to see this incident through the lens of partisanship, but that is an evasion. None of the players from Hartford, none of their parents and friends, and none of us are mistaken about what that chant meant in that context. By chanting the president’s name, Canton fans were reminding their black and brown opponents that no matter what happens on the basketball court, out in the real world, white people have the power. It was not just mean-spirited; it was cowardly. To make matters even more clear, some Canton fans also chanted “we pay your welfare.” In doing so, they betrayed not only their racist and ignorant assumptions, but an ugly disdain for anyone on government assistance. We wish we could say unequivocally that this is “not the Canton we remember.” But that’s not completely true. As a small, mostly white suburb in America, a certain undercurrent of white chauvinism comes with the territory. We recall wincing at the occasional racist joke or slur. We remember when our black classmates were unfairly singled out for punishment.
But we also remember a Canton community that always aspired to be tolerant and equitable. Those who expressed racist views were told to knock it off. And those who may have held hateful views privately, understood that expressing them publicly would have harmful social consequences. While many of us have moved away, Canton was a formative part of our upbringing. It was in our little town that we learned to be the accepting and understanding adults that we are today. We are proud of the Canton students who have already taken a stand against these malicious acts and we are hopeful that Canton families will continue to raise—and Canton teachers will continue to educate—kind, caring people who have the courage to speak out against injustice. We hope this letter can contribute to conversations already underway among students, parents, teachers, and other community members. We are eager to be a part of and help facilitate those conversations in whatever way we can.
Preventing racism from being normalized in our community requires vigilance. And it’s everyone’s responsibility. We hope this incident can be the impetus for a frank appraisal of how well we are fulfilling that responsibility.