So irrelevant is the sport of fencing to most Americans that I’d bet most of us could go decades without thinking about it.

So it was something of a surprise this week when The New York Times reported that the St. John’s University fencing coach, Boris Vaksman, had been fired after a June 3 recording surfaced in which the coach accused African Americans of stealing and killing. Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves, “made a mistake.”

Talk about tone deaf. Vaksman’s comments came less than four days after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.

And talk about stupid. You have to be truly clueless to talk like that on video. Even if you think this nonsense is somehow acceptable, it wouldn’t be something a normal person would record for posterity.

Until the video became public, Vaksman’s punishment by the fencing club for which he worked was going to be sensitivity training and community service. After it did, the club fired him, too.

The situation is telling in a couple of ways. First, with chronic poverty grinding Americans black, brown, and white to the bone, do we even need sports like fencing at the university level? Couldn’t we use our pooled resources to better effect? And, second, is racism so systemic and engrained in American society that it seeps, toxically, into endeavors as generally irrelevant as this sport? I guess we know the answer.

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