BLACK VOICES
10/27/2014 11:39 am ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

Was This High School Football Team's Watermelon-Smashing Ritual Racist?

The saga of South Carolina high school football coach Bud Walpole is a strange one: first, he was fired for his team's reported watermelon-smashing ritual, after the school board found out about the practice and was understandably worried about the racial stereotypes attached.

Then, after more than 4,000 people signed a petition, Walpole was reinstated as head coach at Academic Magnet. The story has sparked outrage and debate nationwide.

HuffPost Live hosted a three-member roundtable — the lawyer for the team's parents, Larry Kobrovsky, Dr. Greg Carr, professor of African-American studies at Howard University and L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, sociology and black studies professor at CUNY — to discuss whether the ritual was racist or not.

Kobrovsky, who the team's parents hired to help reinstate the coach, maintains there were no racist motives behind the tradition.

"A watermelon by itself is not a racial or hostile fruit. In the consciousness of these students, I'm not sure if they even comprehend what you're talking about," he told host Marc Lamont Hill. "Used in a certain contexts, in a cartoon or something to show people, that's a different story than the context that you eat a watermelon then stomp on it after you eat it, I don't see a racial context in that."

Carr and Lewis-McCoy did not agree, to say the least.

"Once again, the artificiality of color blindness protects and preserves this notion of whiteness," Carr said. "There is no such thing as color blindness."

The idea that these kids were unaware that there may be a racial connotation to anything that they did, that is patently false," Lewis-McCoy added. "When we look at what young people actually understand about race, starting from five years old — really three years old — we see them understanding and working around race."

Catch the rest of the discussion above, and watch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.

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