Remember all of those debates we’ve had about whether or not the n-word is just another word? Usually, our conversations dealt with white and non-black rappers and entertainers using the word “as a term of endearment,” but this time we’re heading into the tricky world of high school.

Apparently, a girl’s basketball team in upstate New York has come under fire for a pregame ritual many of its players engaged in. After chanting “one, two, three n–gers!” before running onto the court, a least a dozen girls from Kenmore East High School’s varsity basketball team have been suspended.

The team has only one black player, sophomore Tyra Batts, and she was rightfully offended by the chant. When she called her teammates out for their disrespectful ritual, they told her it was no big deal.

Batts recalled: “I said, ‘You’re not allowed to say that word because I don’t like that word. They said, ‘You know we’re not racist, Tyra. It’s just a word, not a label.’ I was outnumbered.”

Batts says this latest incident is just the latest in many racially charged events that have happen at her school. She was recently suspended from school after getting into a fight with one of her teammates after she was alleged called “a black piece of s–t”

The Buffalo News reports:

Tyra, 15, said that before the Sweet Home game, she argued with other players about the chant, but virtually no one took her side. “They said it’s a tradition; they do it every year,” she said.

During a later practice scrimmage game, she said she and another teammate exchanged words over some physical roughness on the court. Tyra said she “said something dumb,” after which her teammate called her “a black piece of [expletive].” Then on Monday, she said, she saw the girl in school, threw her into a locker, choked and punched her. “It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being singled out of the whole team,” she said.

Both girls were suspended for fighting.

Tyra added that her teammates would routinely make racial references and jokes during practice, including ones regarding slavery, shackles and “picking cotton.” She said her coach, Kristy Bondgren, heard comments from other players about Tyra being black but was unaware of the pregame chant.

Since the story broke and the team was suspended for two days, the racial tension at the school and surrounding community has increased. According to the Buffalo News, many of the “female varsity basketball players have found themselves being ostracized and harassed, and chatter on social networking sites like Facebook reportedly has been filled with angry comments back and forth between white and minority students.”

Although some like to act like the n-word is just another harmless word, incidents like this show us that it is anything but.

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