By guest blogger Gina Cairney
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed two complaints, on behalf of 14-year-old Milena Clarke who has been suffering severe, persistent, and ongoing racial harassment by her middle school teammates since July 2011, according to a press release.
Clarke, an Asian-American basketball player and recent graduate of Russell Middle School in Kentucky, is an adoptee of Asian-Kazakh heritage from Kazakhstan, according to the news site WDRB.com, and has been called numerous derogatory ethnic slurs including “chink” and “gook.”
She claims that she’s even been called a “commie” and made fun of for her Russian Orthodox religion.
Clarke was only one of a handful of Asian or other minority students in the Russell Independent School District, according to AALDF, and is the only racial minority on most of the district’s basketball teams, making her an easy target for race-based bullying and harassment.
Her father went to the school and district about the situation, but he sought outside help after what he thought were unsatisfactory responses from the school, WDRB reports.
Mr. Clarke told WDRB that he didn’t expect this kind of harassment, but according to his daughter, the incident started in 7th grade.
“I was called a ‘chubby chink,’” Clarke told WDRB, that she was “a slow Asian” and that she shouldn’t be playing basketball. When she confronted her coaches about it, they turned a blind eye, telling her to “take it” and “be a leader,” she said, often in front of her alleged harassers.
But it wasn’t just her own racial and ethnic heritage that fueled the harassment.
According to the AALDF, the harassment also included racial slurs about African-American teammates and friends Clarke had made through local travel circuits.
Clarke was told that Asians can’t play ball, but the 5-foot-8-inch guard/forward has earned all-star honors, and fans in both school and amateur leagues.
The young athlete said she decided to come forward because she thought she “shouldn’t be treated like this,” and told WDRB that she wanted to make sure other minorities who go to Russell didn’t experience what she did.
You can see her interview with WDRB here:
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.