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Some People Missed The Entire Academic Magnet Watermelon Incident Point

Darin Griffin said, in the academic magnet did the whole watermelon event to do so.
For two weeks, Charleston County football team big watermelon story high school predominantly white face painted on them and named for a former black high school after the victory.

The district fired the team's coach and parents went ballistic. Then the district rehired him, and some other people raised Cain.

Before it was over, the school board forced Superintendent Nancy McGinley to resign.

Griffin doesn't believe the kids on the football team meant to be racially insensitive. And he says it's a shame some school board members used the controversy as a ruse to fire McGinley.

Griffin has a unique perspective on these events. He's the parent of a student at Military Magnet, the school where the watermelon-busting was first noticed. He is also African-American, a local business owner, and retired military.

He is, as he says, "very conservative." Griffin much prefers the politics of Sen. Tim Scott to President Obama's.

But that's not why he has such great insight into this whole mess.

Darrin Griffin's opinion on the watermelon controversy is important, you see, because he's the guy who first reported it to the school district.

No excuses, just own it
Griffin is a very involved parent and huge booster of Military Magnet Academy.

He was working the concession stand at the game against Academic Magnet back on Sept. 5. The game was over and Griffin was finishing up when he spotted the Academic Magnet team stomping on a watermelon.

"I just thought it was peculiar," Griffin says.

He mentioned it to school board member Michael Miller, adding, "Tell the coach they don't want to do that."

He knew some people might think it was insensitive.

Nothing happened for a few weeks, and then an Academic Magnet player stopped by Miller's barbershop for a haircut. Miller asked, and the teen told him all about the watermelon ritual - the face drawn on the watermelon, the monkey chants as they danced around it.

Miller asked the district to look into it.

When Griffin heard about the face drawn on the watermelon and the "monkey chants," he was offended. But he more offended when people like the coach said, "You mean my team can't eat watermelon?"

"I like watermelon," Griffin says. "There's nothing wrong with watermelon. But when you combine it with some of these other things, it's different. A pillowcase is fine, too, until you cut eyes into and put it over your head."

He's absolutely right. Still, Griffin wasn't calling anyone racist, wasn't looking for anyone's head.

"I don't think the kids had any malicious intent," he says. "They just didn't know."

But the coach should have, he says. If Walpole had just owned it - had just agreed the ritual could be taken the wrong way - and offered to make the team stop, Griffin would have been fine with it.

End of story.

But it wasn't that easy. The district explained the situation to Walpole and then asked him this question: Knowing what you know now, would you do anything different?

According to the district's investigation, Walpole said: "Maybe you want us to go behind the school to do it?"

Then Griffin was really offended.

A conversation not had
Griffin says that Walpole is apparently not sensitive to the African-American community in Charleston.

"He apologized to the NAACP. What did they have to do with it?" Griffin says. "It wasn't meant to be a racial issue."

It was, Griffin thought, supposed to be a teachable moment, a chance for the coach to explain to his team why some people might be offended by a combination of watermelons, caricatures and monkey chants.

Instead, people got their backs up, claimed to know of no stereotypes about watermelons.

And then some of them mentioned "fried chicken," which only proved they were completely full of it.

Griffin laments that instead of a little empathy and respect, the only thing that came of the whole mess was that McGinley was fired. And the board has yet to set any policy on cultural sensitivity in schools.

Honestly, Griffin is more reasonable than many folks. The district's investigation suggests some of the players met to get their stories straight and left the watermelon on the bus during the Garrett game because, as one player said, they believed "some would take it the wrong way."

It doesn't sound like everyone was oblivious to the connotations.

But Griffin is not vindictive. He didn't always agree with McGinley, but wishes she had not been fired over this. Still, he believes it is a conversation the community still needs to have.

And, knowing what he knows now, Griffin says he would do it all over

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