Racist AAU Tournament Volunteers Complete Cultural Awareness Training by Anonymous Call-In

Do you remember that cultural awareness training those two AAU wrestling tournament volunteers were ordered to do as punishment for their racist remarks about a six-year-old American Indian competitor at the state contest in Aberdeen three weekends ago? They phoned it in:

Two volunteers who made offensive comments during a youth wrestling tournament in Aberdeen have completed the tasks asked of them, according to Northern State University wrestling coach Rocky Burkett.

While neither volunteer showed up to the cultural awareness program in person, they phoned in via teleconference, Burkett said.

…The Native American Student Association at Northern was involved in organizing the cultural education. President Shawnee Edge said members of the group were hoping the men would physically attend the session.

“I don’t know who was who, it was kept confidential,” Edge said, adding that the men were referred to as Caller 1 and Caller 2 [Shannon Marvel, “Wrestling Volunteers Complete Training, Family Unhappy with Resolution,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.04.22].

Let’s see: we set up a meeting that is supposed to bring racists and some of the people they loathe together, face-to-face, so they have to recognize and interact with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings, and instead the racists get to hide behind an electronic veil of secrecy. The two racists don’t have to look anyone in the eye. They get to sit in their own comfortable surroundings. The trainers are disembodied voices on a phone line. The trainers can’t watch the racists’ eyes for undivided attention. The trainers can’t even use the racists’ names to connect with them. Nobody develops a real human connection in this situation. Nobody really enters someone else’s culture.

There’s a big difference between uh-huh-ing your way through a phone conversation with people you’ve never met while you watch TV or surf the Web and sitting in a room surrounded by Indians who would like to challenge your racist attitude.

The parents of Nokosi Rising Shield, the wrestler targeted by the racist remarks, recognize the weakness of this response to racism:

Nichole and Justin Ringing Shield are Nokosi’s parents and emailed a statement expressing their displeasure with how the punishment has been enforced.

“In regards to the cultural awareness training … the men involved did not have enough respect and courtesy to attend the meeting. How can you have meaningful interaction if the guilty parties do not show up in person? This tells me they did not take this issue seriously. It also tells me they are cowards for not coming in person,” the email said [Marvel, 2016.04.22].

Expect Coach Burkett to announce wrestling training by phone for next season.

26 Responses to Racist AAU Tournament Volunteers Complete Cultural Awareness Training by Anonymous Call-In

  1. mike from iowa

    Let’s see: we set up a meeting that is supposed to bring racists and some of the people they loathe together, face-to-face, so they have to recognize and interact with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings, and instead the racists get to hide behind an electronic veil of secrecy. The two racists don’t have to look anyone in the eye. They get to sit in their own comfortable surroundings.

    Correct me of you’ve heard this before- sounds like another broken treaty.

  2. I’m sure they learned something from that. That was the most important part of the “punishment”, as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Broken treaty indeed. They don’t even think they have to try to be civil.

  4. Roger Cornelius

    Well, that was a complete and utter waste of time.
    It shouldn’t surprise anybody that racist South Dakotans would do anything more.

  5. mike from iowa

    I need to quit coming here. Whitey wingnuts make me ashamed to be white. The way they treat women make s me ashamed to be what passes as a man. My human dignity will end up in the bottom of a deep bore hole before this plague of vermin runs its course. Consider me hornswoggled by god as ever was!

  6. Bonus dodge: The Ringing Shield family received unsigned letters of apology, purportedly from the two racist offenders… but how can they know? The two men have done nothing to own their words

  7. LuAnn Werdel

    This is a slap in the face to the little boy and his family. I am very disappointed in the wrestling coach. When this incident was first brought to light, he said all the right things…too bad it wasn’t true.

  8. Worse yet, Mr. Mike. Unlike Iowa, there is no god here.

  9. mfi, you sir are profound. I couldn’t agree more with yours and all these other comments. unsigned, jfc!!

    this is almost as ludicrous as most of republican spin we see daily.

    why do republicans bother governing? this is an amateur athletic association putting on a statewide event under a contract using school children whose ultimate safety and well-being is the responsibility of the appropriate administering school board, and the wrestling children are the central attraction at a university venue governed by administrating Regents again regulated by contract. read the contracts. use your imagination. enforce the provisions protecting the children. revise future contracts so protections are broadened if necessary. use lawyers employed by the school district and Regents, read the law and the contract(s) and protect the kids, fer chrissake!

    please stand up, have a back bone, administer contractual responsibilities required of the State of SD, Regents, and School board, and make AAU responsible for it’s responsibilities under the contract(s). haven’t you learned anything from EB5 and MCEC??? or exercise your vast disgression and do nothing, as you, in effect have done here, yet again.

    this is what a competent administrator does faced with a messy, dangerous situation, for example.


    also please see my top gun comment re: MCEC.

  10. Jake Cummings

    Cory, I couldn’t read the full AAN article without a subscription, so can you tell me if it mentioned the two offenders receiving further punishments, such as a subsequent probation/banning from events?

    You and other commenters make excellent points regarding why face-to-face meetings would be preferable; however, there is also a chance that the pair of racists would have been confrontational, combative, and disruptive.

    That is why I asked about other possible punishment. For example, they could be given “credit” for their faux participation in the cultural awareness seminar but, for instance, be banned from the next two (or another number to be specified) AAU events.

    Maybe AAU could release some PSAs about how crowds “wrestling” or “grappling” with racist/insensitive groups and individuals can counter such perspectives and let children like Nokosi know that we are not all intolerant and such conduct in unacceptable. Pro events have anonymous text services where disruptive fans can be reported to security. Perhaps AAU should implement and emphasize similar approaches at events whereby they identify officials who are tasked with dealing with disruptive fans. Sometimes making people aware that procedures are in place helps proactively silence, or at least reduce, overt racist and discriminatory behavior.

  11. I struggle with this. On one hand, bring their names to light. Yet…with the vitriol out there, what purpose is there to destroy their names, family, reputation. Taking training online is not unusual. They didn’t dodge it, they took it. They sent letters. They appear to comply with what is needed and to learn. They were held accountable……..Why do we need to attack even more?

  12. LuAnn Werdel

    Gracie, I appreciate your comment. I don’t think anyone wants to destroy anyone’s reputation. This is an emotional issue. And yes, training’s are done on-line all the time to minimize expenses (travel, meals, etc.). However, in this case, do you really think the two young men benefited from such a format? The wrestling coach should have asked the family what they needed to heal from this incident? Perhaps a face-to-face meeting with the parents in a restorative justice setting? Would it have been hard for the two young men? Probably, but so what? We (society) are often confronted on a daily basis by people who are not held accountable for their actions. Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community. This contrasts to more punitive approaches where the main aim is to punish the offender. The victims take an active role in the process. Meanwhile, offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, “to repair the harm they’ve done – by apologizing, or community service” In addition, the restorative justice approach aims to help the offender to avoid future offenses. I think if these two young men would have had to sit across from the parents, and really listen to the anger, pain, and humiliation their actions caused, it would have had a much more positive impact on their future behavior. Restorative justice that fosters dialogue between victim and offender has shown the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. There are numerous facilitators in SD who would have been able to handle this situation with compassion and integrity for both sides. Just my thoughts…

  13. mike from iowa

    Who sent the letters,Gracie? How do you know they took the training? Did you see them? What is wrong with accountability? These weren’t children who didn’t know better. Lots of questions left to be answered. Even if the child didn’t directly hear the things said,others did.

  14. certainly it may be difficult to police volunteers and when the assn business plan relies on that money-saving or community involvement aspects of volunteers requires accountability to the public venue/regents/school board/coaches, and appropriate management of that work force. these volunteers should likely never be used again in an inter-racial event (and when are there not inter-racial events in SD?)

    if the lesson is not taught now by the responsible entity, it will repeat the violation.

    thank you for your comment LuAnn.

  15. Should we be thankful they didn’t pour beer on the children?

  16. Jake, the only other known punishments against these two men have been the cultural training, the apology letters, and their ban from future AAU events. As Mike says in response to Grace, the family can’t be sure the men wrote the letters of apology, because the letters bear no signatures.

    I see a lot of power in LuAnn’s concept of restorative justice, which also offers the opportunity for rehabilitative justice for the two men. Those two men won’t change their attitudes as long as they can keep walls between themselves and the Indians they apparently detest. These two racists need to face their neighbors to find their common humanity.

  17. We don’t know it is only Indians they apparently detest. I could just be little Indian boys. Or boys from (his town here.) Or Indian wrasslers. Or maybe they detest all non-white-males in general. We don’t know. They should have had to explain that in the letters. Maybe they just didn’t like this kid in particular, I certainly don’t know. If that’s the case they shouldn’t have attacked him on his name or race but instead on his wrassling ability. I think I heard he got 4th which means he must be pretty good. Jealousy?

  18. It occurs to me we don’t know the race of these commentator fellows. Does anybody know if they are white or black or asian?

  19. mike from iowa

    It is 2016 and a third,why do we still have to have these conversations? Do not people understand there is no privacy in public settings? Someone,somewhere has some electronic recording device(s) going at all times. Chances of someone not being videoed or caught on audio are pretty damn small-like bigot’s minds.

  20. well, regents university liquor policy would surely prevent NSU sales at jr. wrestling events, right? now, now, now, I just know good administrators make sensible decisions in SD:)

    now I suppose, after HC’s long, long linked vid from “cornell” by Dr. Saad, he’s gonna justify these two guys’ speech at the AAU event! just kidding.

    PC is prolly all porter says it is, although i’m not talking to that bully anymore. Wiken correctly says there are different PCs coming from different directions-and Republican spin always creates confusion.

    my suspicion, in this cloudy, cloudy topic is that conservative talk-show/Faux News hate for the admirable idea of PC-ness has led to its “trickle-down” vilification by young people.

  21. I think the process that LuAnn had is the best idea. Racism can’t be punished away. In fact, that will probably make it more entrenched because the bigot will be resentful that they were held accountable for their attitudes towards the despised group(s)!

    Having to sit face to face with the object of their hatred will be more likely to enable them to see them as human rather than an inferior being! I pray that God will expose them to experiences that will turn their stone hearts from hatred to understanding and tolerance!

  22. mike from iowa

    It occurs to me we don’t know the race of these commentator fellows

    Your point is, Grudz?

  23. the family should get to pour beer on the heads of the perps.

  24. trolling of women sports casters like so and so should be the next victim of bill cosby, on NPR today. free speech. 95% of males polled were repulsed. Yeah, PC is just a way for liberals to stifle your republican freed speech. right.

  25. Hap, I’ll go this far in agreement with you: I recognize that Islam facilitates some violent, oppressive, theocratic tendencies that I don’t want in my community. Muslims, like Christians and other absolutists, need to curb some of their practices to fit into pluralistic democracy.

    Recall what I said about Muslim cashiers refusing to handle salami:


    I can hold that position simultaneously with my support for welcoming refugees and recognizing immigration as a net plus for our community and our nation. I’d contend that my willingness to accommodate refugees and immigrants gives me more ground upon which to expect a willingness from immigrants to accommodate the culture of their new homeland.

  26. I think the Ringing Shield family deserves apologies…not some anonymous note written by an unidentified person. The men involved did not think twice about spewing hate speech and racial slurs at a 6 year-old boy. But, when they were caught in the act, they refused to be accountable for their actions. Two grown men against a six year-old boy. It is reprehensible. The Ringing Shields were not asking for a lot…just two things…1) That the men involved would come forward and apologize; and 2) That the men involved would participate in cultural sensitivity training. Just two things to make the Ringing Shield family whole again after being subjected to such hate. But, neither was accomplished. The men did not come forward and apologize nor did they attend the cultural training.

    One of the individuals involved supposedly is a student at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and a member of Rocky Burkett’s wrestling team. What appropriate consequences were given to this wrestler and student? Mr. Burkett says that is confidential. Why? Conflict of interest?

    Mr. Bob Johnson, South Dakota State Director of AAU, said one of the individuals lost his job because of this. REALLY? How could that be when the men have never been identified?
    NSC was going to present a Native American panel to speak with the men who directed racial slurs against the 6 year-old wrestler. Lara Nelson, American Indian Academic Advisor at NSU, set up a well-versed panel to speak with the perpetrators but the perpetrators DID NOT HAVE THE DECENCY or RESPECT to show up in person for the sensitivity training. The perpetrators chose instead to hide behind a shield of secrecy…the anonymous voices on the phone…identified only as “caller one” and “caller two”. Who knows if the callers were the actual men involved in the hate speech and racial slurs since they were only voices over the phone and were never addressed by name. These perpetrators made a mockery of the training and of this incident.

    Rocky Burkett said the perpetrator’s involvement in this “cultural sensitivity training” was deemed satisfactory. Anonymous phone in training? Will Rocky Burkett do his wrestling training by phone next season and ID the team players on the phone as “Team member 1” or “Team member 3” etc. and deem it satisfactory? I think not. What about the time and effort of members of the Native American panel who were willing to meet with the two men knowing the hateful things they had said about the Native American people and culture? The members of the Native American panel approached this issue in good faith. The same cannot be said about the two perpetrators who refused to do it in person.