Los Angeles Times

Cheerleader's blackface video raises ghosts of Fresno's racist past

FRESNO, Calif. - It took two 15-year-old cheerleaders, two viral videos, a racial slur and a school board member on a tear to force this Central Valley city to confront its painful past - one of discrimination that some say has shaped the place for more than a century.

This very big, very small town spent its summer vacation talking about racism and white privilege, about youthful mistakes and righteous punishment, about elusive justice and enduring pain.

With the school year now underway, the question is what happens next.

The white girl whose behavior is at the heart of Fresno's current racial debate remains on the cheer squad. The black girl who blew the whistle has been pulled out of school by her fearful mother. And the Bullard Knights' Friday football games - events that bring residents together - promise to be marked by protests and heightened security.

The incident that ignited the civic soul searching was "horrifically racist and inappropriate," Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Bob Nelson said in a recent interview. "It is also a 15-year-old. That has been the crux of the issue. How do you respond to that?"

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