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'We need a Racists Anonymous': Grandmother responds to racism in local high school sports

Racist behavior among local high school athletes has struck a nerve among community members, especially those who've been dealing with it for years.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Recent reports of kids using racial slurs at a local high school baseball game have really hit a nerve with community members. But for Benita Presley, a Black woman, mother of seven and grandmother of 15, it’s nothing new.

“It just makes me sad that we're in 2022 and we're still having this be an issue,” said Presley, a Portland resident who lived in Vancouver until recently. 

Like many others, Presley is processing reports of racist behavior among the Camas High School junior varsity baseball team. Witnesses heard chanting and racial slurs from the team when they played Skyview on April 20.

Presley thinks of the Black athlete on Skyview's team who heard it all, and she thinks of her own kids and grandchildren. She said in recent years, three of them have been the targets of racist behavior while playing teams in Clark County.

“I stopped going to the games,” said Presley. “Because to hear the ‘N-word’ thrown around, to hear ‘monkey’ being thrown around — the parents of the kids saying it, sitting in the bleachers laughing and smiling and not telling their children not to say that — I got up and left.”

RELATED: Investigation finds Camas junior varsity baseball team players 'engaged in racist behavior' at game

In the most recent case with Camas, the district's week-long investigation found Camas players did engage in racist behavior. School officials said it clearly illustrates that a problem exists on their team. The district also canceled future JV games until the situation with Skyview and Camas JV baseball is resolved.

Presley has several ideas of how to address the issue of kids and racism, big picture. She said the first step is parents taking accountability.

“Your mindset and what you think and what you teach and what you tell your children is what they're going to hold on to,” said Presley. “So starting at a very young age, what you say and what you display in your household, is what they're going to go out in the community and emulate.”

RELATED: Oregon high school on probation after racist behavior probe

But what if parents and other adults can’t bring themselves to do that? Presley shared another idea for a solution she thinks would help, rather than sugar-coating the problem.

“We need a ‘Racists Anonymous,’" said Presley. “Some people could come forward and say, ‘My name is so-and-so, and I'm a racist and I learned this behavior from somebody and I want to get better. I want to get well.’”