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Race as a Factor Penn State Scandal

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Race as a factor in the Penn State Scandal


At this point we all are aware of the basic facts of the scandal that occurred at Penn State regarding Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, and Penn State Football.  What we do not know for sure is the race of the children that were raped by Sandusky; however, if we assume that those children were black does that make the cover up of the rapes that much worse? Yes, Yes it does.  

Impact of Race

While we do not know for sure the race of the children as it was not mentioned in the grand jury report, it is safe to assume that some were black.  These children were part of the Second Mile Foundation which focused on helping “underprivileged” youth, and let’s be honest, we all know what that is a code word for; young, poor, at risk, black and Hispanics children.  Jerry Sandusky was bringing children from The Second Mile Foundation into the Penn State football locker room, and if we put two and two together; some of the children were black.  A white middle aged male was raping young black boys and no one said anything or did anything to stop it for 12 years. From May 4th, 1998 forward, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley, Penn State Vice President for finance and business Gary Schultz, Penn State President Graham Spanier, and Football Head Coach Joe Paterno, according to Tom Kline, “showed a ‘concerted, conscious, collaborative effort’ to keep Sandusky's crimes a secret from authorities” (Connor, 2012).  

What if it was a bunch of rich white children? Do we think that these middle aged white men would have spoken up sooner to stop Sandusky, or would the abuse have happened at all?  “A study in the March (2011) issue of the Journal Pediatrics, ‘Racial Bias in Child Protection? A Comparison of Competing Explanations Using National Data,’ found that poverty was a huge determinant not only of levels of abuse. The study predictably found that a disproportionate number of the reported child abuse cases in 2009 which spanned the gamut from neglect to child rape were African-American children. The study directly linked the abuse to poverty.” ("Did Race Explain Penn State’s Blind Eye to Sex Scandal?", 2016) So, there is two things we can take form this study, either white children are abused less, or it is reported less; let’s work on the premise that it occurs less.  Under that premise the rapes occurred because of both economic and cultural reasons; “underprivileged” children.

Changes to Policy and Personal Attitudes

Penn State must have better leadership inside the football program and inside the University.  Leadership (head coach, athletic director, and University president) should have understood how this allegation could impact the program and been able to delineate between their poor decision making, and making the right decision in protecting the children of The Second Mile.   The correct action would have been removing Sandusky from the program and away from children.  Penn state needs a stronger directive approach to how to handle internal reports regarding abuse, showing that there was a communication breakdown as to what was the most important aspect of the allegation.  It should have been communicated that, above all, the safety of the students and children in and around the football program comes before anything and everything else; safety above pride and above winning (Robbins, 2014).   Policy must directly reflect the need for safety above anything else.

Personal attitudes about race should have been checked at the door, and race should never have entered into the minds of the men who did not report Sandusky and who continued to employ him.  Whether the children were white, black, Hispanic, green, or purple, Sandusky should have been reported and removed from both the Penn State University and The Second Mile Foundation.  In this case specifically, and in any case regrading abuse- the color of the child does not matter, only the safety of the child.



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