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Dr. Yohuru Williams weighs in on reports of racism surrounding several Minnesota schools

Dr. Williams says these instances can have a damaging, long-term effect on students of color, and that school districts need to prioritize accountability.

NEW PRAGUE, Minn. — The head coach of the Minnetonka High School girls basketball team stepped down for the remainder of the year after player-student racism allegations, while in New Prague, the superintendent says he's investigating recent claims of racist taunts towards a visiting high school basketball team.

Dr. Yohuru Williams, a professor of history and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas, says the issue of reported acts of racism in schools isn't anything new.

"When you talk about many of these districts where there are low numbers of students of color, this is just the everyday reality of operating in spaces where there are not large numbers of students of color," he said.

Eastern Carver County School District recently made headlines for racism and equity concerns after several students filed a federal lawsuit. Another lawsuit was recently filed by a Cold Spring family against the ROCORI school district in January, claiming the district failed to respond to multiple acts of racial harassment and discrimination.

"The reality is that the larger culture needs to learn more about African- American history to understand why these things are so traumatizing, to understand why this language, certain symbols and actions and behavior, which have a historical meaning, are so toxic," he said. "That's true of African-Americans, it's certainly true of Asian-Americans, we can certainly talk about this in terms of anti-semitism in our country," he said.

"What are the impacts for those students of color who face this kind of racism," asked KARE 11's Charmaine Nero.

"It can be devastating for students who are in that environment for a couple of reasons," said Dr. Williams. "First and foremost, those students really have to navigate those spaces, for the most part alone, and so there's already the challenge of being in a space that's predominantly white," he said.

Williams says these instances can have a damaging long-term effect on students of color, and school districts need to do more when it comes to accountability.

"That push for accountability results in people stepping down and suspensions," he said. "The school board has the responsibility to make sure students feel safe and you can't do that if you don't take tangible action to correct that behavior."

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