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Marlen Garcia: Hostile chants do damage at high school game

Students from Andrean High School hold up an image of Republican president candidate Donald Trump during a basketball game against Bishop Noll Institute in Merrillville, Indiana. The Catholic bishop of the northern part of the state condemned the students who waved the poster and shouted, "Build a wall" at their rival, a school with a heavy Hispanic presence. | Jonathan Miano/The Times of Northwest Indiana

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In the aftermath of a high school basketball game between Catholic schools in northwest Indiana that became racially charged, officials tried to say the right things.

Administrators from Andrean High School in Merrillville and Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond issued statements about sportsmanship and teachable moments.

Their remarks came a few days after Andrean students shouted, “Build a wall” during a game last weekend against Bishop Noll, a school with a heavy Hispanic population, close to 50 percent. Andrean is about 57 percent white, according to Indiana’s Department of Education.

A student cheering for Andrean held up a large poster of Donald Trump’s head that gave the chant an extra shot of hostility. There were other offensive chants: “No comprende” and “Speak English.”

OPINION

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Bishop Donald J. Hying of the Diocese of Gary, Ind., condemned the jeers earlier this week.

But the damage is done. I doubt statements from the bishop and school administrators will make Heidi Loredo feel better. Loredo, of Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood, is a 1999 graduate of Bishop Noll. Her mother still lives in Hammond.

She expected to read about a thrilling atmosphere because it has been that way for years between the rival schools. Reading about the game’s toxic setting instead brought back painful memories for Loredo, 34, a Mexican American.

“I remember living in northwest Indiana and walking with my dad through the neighborhoods and hearing racist comments,” she said, her voice breaking. “I always saw my dad in a weakened state when he heard them. He would say, ‘Don’t worry. They won’t hate us forever.’ ”

But Loredo also has warm memories of growing up in that area. She attended Bishop Noll, an expensive school paid in part by her dad’s paycheck from working in the steel industry. There was a sense of family at the school, she said. “There were no cliques. We all got along. My oldest brother would bring friends over – black, white, Polish. It was one big cornucopia.”

She went on to work side-by-side with people of different cultures in the Marines. Ethnicity and race weren’t issues in the 12 years she served, Loredo said. She found kinship there.

These uplifting experiences helped Loredo put aside animosity directed at her family long ago.

Ugly incidents, spurred on by a presidential candidate’s prejudiced remarks – Trump launched his campaign in June with ignorant remarks about Mexicans and later offended Muslims – bring it all back.

“I have these hopes that people will understand why these things hurt,” Loredo said. “If not, our kids are going to go through the stuff our parents went through.”

The Andrean-Bishop Noll game wasn’t the first high school game to be marred by Trump-fueled hate speech this season. The basketball team from Perry (Iowa) High School, with a culturally diverse enrollment, heard chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” and “USA,” along with snippets of Trump’s views on immigrants, when it played Dallas Center-Grimes last month, according to published reports.

A fan who attended the game at Andrean said Bishop Noll students tried to drown out the offensive chant with their own.

“We’re bilingual,” Ashley Howard, 27, said some students chanted.

“Si, se puede,” was another response offered in unison.

It can be done.

They kept it positive, Howard said.

If only the leading Republican candidate could do the same.

Email: MarlenGarcia777@yahoo.com

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