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SoCal High School & Prep Report

UCLA Recruit Matt Barnes Targeted
In Racial Incident At Del Campo High--(April 1,1998)

No, this is not an April Fool's joke. We wish it were, but it's not. The Sacramento Bee reported today that Matt Barnes, one of Sacramento's most accomplished high school athletes, and a hotly recruited senior considered a standout in both basketball and football who has signed to play basketball at UCLA next season-- was the target Tuesday of venomous racist graffiti that smeared death threats and epithets across the walls of Del Campo High School.

The graffiti incident, described by San Juan Unified School District officials as the most extensive and hateful in years, mentioned by name 18-year-old Matt Barnes. According to the Sacramento Bee, the vandalism spilled into Del Campo Park, a graceful spread of meadow adjacent to the school. The park's bathrooms were blanketed with similar racist scrawls and then torched, so that by midmorning all that remained of the building was a smoldering frame. Sacramento County sheriff's officials said they are investigating the incident, which left the school emblazoned with white swastikas and phrases such as "KKK" and "Matt Barnes Die," as a felony hate crime. Sheriff's Department spokesman Jim Cooper said the incident also could result in charges of felony arson.

"It makes me mad," Barnes told the Bee. Barnes stayed home from school Tuesday to help his family move, a relocation unrelated to the incident. "To think I've gone there four years, and right before I graduate, this happens. . . . They are not intimidating me. It's not going to affect my school work."

School officials emphasized Tuesday that Del Campo High -- whose enrollment is nearly 90 percent white and just 2 percent African American -- has no overt racial tensions. And it remains unclear, said principal Gail Pierce, whether the crime was committed by a student at the school. "The kids are very upset," Pierce told the Bee. "It goes without saying that it is unacceptable."

Barnes, who is part white and part African American, also described the virulent racism expressed in the graffiti as unusual for the school. He and other students told the Bee that Del Campo -- like most schools in the region -- has a small "white pride" contingent whose members are viewed by some as racist, by others as teens expressing pride in their heritage. In any case, Barnes told the Bee that overtly racist students "stand out" as a small minority. "There are a lot of things we're going to look at," Cooper said. "It could be one individual who hates him, and he is going to great lengths to do this out of spite."

The graffiti was discovered shortly before 6 a.m. by teachers and students arriving for Junior ROTC. Shortly after, American River Fire Protection District officials got a report that the park bathroom was burning. The fire died out before firefighters arrived; and by the time classes started, maintenance workers had covered the epithets with large blotches of paint. In the past, Barnes has been the target of racial slurs involving opposing high schools, including the time a woman yelled racial epithets after he made the winning play in a football game. But according to Barnes' parents, Tuesday's incident ushered in a new level of hurt. "My children have endured," Barnes' mother, Ann, told the Bee, "but never to this extreme.".

 

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