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LSU Senior Delivers Impassioned Response to ‘Racist’ Rhetoric

LSU women's basketball players Hailey Van Lith, Angel Reese, and Flau'jae Johnson

LSU’s women’s basketball team is familiar with the harsh words hurled at them from spectators, both media and fans alike.

This week, the prestigious program was exposed to more of the same. A Los Angeles Times column written by Ben Bolch described LSU’s players as “dirty debutantes” and their Sweet 16 opponent as “milk and cookies.” The column went even further, calling the matchup between the UCLA and LSU “good versus evil. Right versus wrong. Inclusive versus divisive.”

Hailey Van Lith Delivers Impassioned Response to ‘Racist’ Rhetoric

Following the Tigers’ victory over the Bruins, senior guard Hailey Van Lith addressed the hit piece, characterizing it as a “racist” diatribe. It was a moving monologue, with Van Lith —a White woman from Wenatchee, WA —passionately defending her Black teammates.

“We do have a lot of Black women on this team, and unfortunately, that bias does exist still today, and a lot of the people that are making those comments are being racist towards my teammates,” Van Lith says, per ESPN’s Andrea Adelson.

“I’m in a unique situation,” she explains. “…I’ll talk trash and I’ll get a different reaction than if Angel [Reese] talks trash. I have a duty to my teammates to have their back. Some of the words that were used in that article were very sad and upsetting.”

Van Lith’s words evoke the memory of criticism levied at Reese after trash-talking popular Iowa guard Caitlin Clark during LSU’s victory over Iowa in the 2023 NCAA Women’s National Championship game. Reese pointed at her ring finger and taunted Clark with the ‘You Can’t See Me’ celebration, signifying her and LSU’s triumph. Despite Clark doing the same celebration the game before, Reese was villainized while Clark’s honor was defended.

“Calling us the ‘dirty debutantes,’ that has nothing to do with sports,” Van Lith says.

Dressing Down the Double Standard

“I know for a fact that people see us differently because we do have a lot of Black women on our team who have an attitude and like to talk trash…,” she continues. “At the end of the day, I’m rocking with them because they don’t let that change who they are. They stay true to themselves, and so I’ll have their back.”

“I’ve experienced it at Louisville. I’ve experienced it my whole life,” Van Lith says of the double standard.

“A lot of the times, I’m one of the only white people on the team and so I do see things from a different perspective. I think a lot of people who live in communities that everyone is like them, that’s when they tend to think, ‘Oh, racism doesn’t exist today.’ But I have seen it and I experienced it, and I watch it happen to my teammates. I watch it happen to my friends.”

Van Lith’s most poignant quote saw her reminiscing on her hometown, a city with a population that’s 63.9 percent White and 1.0 percent Black, per the 2022 U.S. Census.

“So, when I go back home —which is a mostly white community —I do share those experiences,” Van Lith begins.

“When I was in high school, they tried to cancel the Martin Luther King Jr. assembly because we didn’t have enough time for it, but every other holiday we had enough time for. We were a majority white high school, so no one had a problem with it.

It’s my responsibility to say things when that happens because I’m in a unique position.”

Perturbed by comments she says  “can crush your soul a little bit,” Van Lith’s dignified stance won’t go unnoticed. There’s a particular kind of power when White Americans join the fight against racism, a real evil. Hopefully, Van Lith’s message will be absorbed by not only the sports world but the entire world.

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