One incident opens up a discussion of hate and racism

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LEBANON - Racial slurs and threats were yelled at young teens after a basketball game; this led to a further investigation into of racism and hate in one local town.

The mother of a 14-year-old Sedalia Smith-Cotton basketball player, Krista Padgett, was upset when she heard her son and other players were harassed and threatened with weapons at a McDonalds after a basketball game versus Lebanon.

"I was concerned for his safety and well-being and how it was affecting him and how it was going to affect him in the future," Padgett said. 

Lebanon police investigated the incident and found that the teens harassing the Sedalia boys were not from Lebanon. 

Padgett posted about the incident on Facebook, and she received a lot of response. Some people were supportive of her son, while others questioned what happened or did not think it was a problem. 

One Lebanon resident commented on that post and stated racism is not an issue in Lebanon: "This is a joke! Sounds made up if you ask me, I'm sure something may have happened but I doubt to the extent this women is saying! And to be completely honest y'all are making yourselves look ridiculous and pathetic!! It's crazy how us "White" didn't act a fool when Obama got elected but now trumps get elected the "colored" ppl start pulling out the damn racist card. I do believe what Trump says that everyone needs to go back where they belong...period!!! But that doesn't mean I'm racist Colored ppl are always ready to pull the racist s*** out and it's getting pathetic!!!!"

KOMU 8 News reached out to the resident to she if she could comment on the story, but she never wrote back.

The Smith-Cotton Tigers Boys Basketball team shared a photo to its Facebook page with the caption: "Before the game, the Lebanon boys basketball team and coaches wished the Tigers good luck and apologized on behalf of their community for the inident after their game last week."

Another incident involving a school teacher

Shortly after the basketball team incident, another Facebook post in Lebanon caught a lot of attention. A teacher at the high school, shared an article on Facebook titled, "Burned alive while unarmed ... Christians" with the caption, "For all you Christian haters this is what Muslims with guns did to unarmed Christians.. they used gasoline and just burned them alive... merciless... do you want to give anyone all the power and you have none?"

KOMU 8 News reached out to the school district about the post. Jacy Overstreet, Lebanon Public Schools director of communication, said, "Lebanon R-3 School Board policies do not condone discriminatory behavior by staff or students, and the District takes appropriate actions with students or staff if these policies are violated in connection to school activities or job responsibilities."

The mayor of Lebanon, Josh Ray, said sharing posts like that, reinforces hate.

"What I saw in that post was not ok. I am actually really dismayed at our society as a whole that we have such access to information, and we have still managed as a human race to just find the information that fits our frameworks," Ray said. 

Muslim woman in Lebanon weighs in on town atmosphere

Long-time Lebanon resident Wendy Abdulai said this is nothing new for Lebanon. Abdulai is Muslim and married to an African immigrant. Despite growing up in the town, Abdulai said she is treated like an outsider.

"I have been told to go back to where I came from," Abdulai said. 

And her husband gets the same treatment.

"My husband one time, actually a few blocks from our home, was called a derogatory name. He is an African immigrant, and so the N word has come out probably more than once, but once that we know of," Abdulai said.

Abdulai said this has been a problem in Lebanon for a long time. She said part of the issue is that the town is secluded and doesn't know any better.

The current U.S Census said in Lebanon 94 percent of the community is white, 1.3 percent is black, 0.7 percent is Asian, 2.4 percent is two or more races and 2.6 percent is Hispanic or Latino.



Mayor: 'When people start talking like that, you stop it.'

Abdulai said the rhetoric of the election has really brought people out of the woodwork. 

"We had a rally at the city council the other day regarding a racist incident that happened in town, and they will drive by in their big trucks and blow black smoke on us. And we had signs that said things like 'integrity' and just really positive messages, and it's still met with hate," Abdulai said.

Ray said racism is a problem, but Lebanon is not alone.

"To the extent that I think it exists everywhere, I think that racism exists here," Ray said.

Despites these issues, Abdulai stressed how much she still loves Lebanon.

"I think Lebanon is a great city. I think it's got a lot of potential. I just hope in the future it can continue to move forward, and I think under Mayor Ray it will," Abdulai said. 

Ray said if you hear something that doesn't sound right, say something.

"When people start talking like that, you stop it. Because if you're ok with that, then later on you're going to have people that say a little bit more and a little bit more insulting and a little bit more racist. And then you end up with violence and issues that are a little bit harder for our town to tackle," Ray said.

Going forward Ray plans to lead by example, he is going to be taking diversity training classes in the hopes others will join him.