Burlingame students chant racially insensitive remark at basketball game

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The debate Monday is not whether some students at Burlingame High School engaged in a racially insensitive chant at a recent basketball game, but rather, whether an undercurrent of racism has been addressed. (KGO-TV)

The debate Monday is not whether some students at Burlingame High School engaged in a racially insensitive chant at a recent basketball game, but rather, whether an undercurrent of racism has been addressed.

The chant happened as rivals, Burlingame and Mills high schools, were playing at Burlingame early last month.

With Burlingame down almost 20 points and its fans clearly not cheering, some students from Mills chanted, "We can't hear you."

A few students seated in the Burlingame section responded by chanting, "You can't see us." Burlingame Principal Paul Belzer immediately intervened, giving a cut sign. However, there was no taking back what some Mills students considered a racially tinged insult.

The student body at Mills is 52 percent Asian, while it is only 21 percent at Burlingame.
Since the Jan. 12 game, Belzer has met with two student leadership groups.

Some of them went to Mills to apologize. Sheri Costa, director of public relations for the San Mateo Union High School District, said the response from Mills was "gracious." Ironically, Belzer had been principal at Mills for 10 years before transferring to Burlingame.

However, the issue is not over for some students, including Vivian Yuen, a Burlingame senior, who says an undercurrent of anti-Asian racism persists at her school.

A parent of another Burlingame student, who did not want his name used, concurred, saying that the students who chanted the offensive comment were not given the chance to step up, acknowledge their mistake and reconcile with those whom they insulted.

Student Yuen wrote a letter to the editor of the student paper, the Burlingame B, that "I have often heard racist 'jokes' and stereotypes being tossed around casually in conversations, not just about Asians but many other ethnic groups. Racism is a large problem that affects our campus, and we need to confront it."

Belzer addressed all Burlingame students over the public address system, saying, "Racial stereotyping and other acts of discrimination are unacceptable and need to be addressed directly and denounced. This type of behavior will not be tolerated."

One student said he thought the game chant was an unfortunate incident stemming from an emotional game Burlingame was losing and that it was not typical of his experience at the school.
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