After a high school boys basketball championship game last weekend, a handful of Texas high school kids chanted “USA! USA! USA!” to celebrate their school’s win. Trouble is, the losing team interpreted the cheer as a … racist chant. KENS 5 of San Antonio reports:

Two possibilities (and I’m giving the complainants every possible benefit of the doubt here):

  1. We don’t know what precipitated the chant. Maybe the kids who took up the cry were particularly in-your-face about it. Maybe, the chanters really did intend the refrain to imply their competitors aren’t U.S. citizens — and to imply that they, as U.S. citizens (I’m assuming they are because they chanted “USA!” — not because they’re white), are superior to non-U.S. citizens. (Whether any or all of the players on either or both sides are U.S. citizens isn’t clear from the report.) Still, that’s not exactly racist. It’s poor sportsmanship with a side of nationalism.
  2. Maybe the kids were just excited at the victory and the excitement overflowed into an expression of patriotism. As a Texas high school boys basketball team isn’t exactly the national basketball team, it’s not as though the chant makes literal sense — but it’s far more plausible to think the high schoolers were chanting it as a way to build themselves up than to believe they were chanting it as a way to tear their opponents down.

Again, “USA” signifies a nation, not a race. A nationalist chant might imply the nation is exceptional, but it doesn’t imply any particular race is exceptional. It’s important to use the proper vocabulary here; too much confusion as to what constitutes racism already exists.