The Outlook

This isn't for the sensitive

(Black) Students Not Allowed

CNN is reporting on a story out of Chicago involving seniors from The Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

These seniors planned a trip to Chicago for their class with a culminating party at a bar in downtown, Chicago. They contacted the bar before they arrived, but when they got there, the white students were allowed in, and the black students were not. The bar claimed it was dress code violations that prevented the black students from entering, but the students not only claim they were told that even if they changed they would not be allowed in, but one pair of students two boys, one black, the other white tested the theory by switching their jeans. The white student was still allowed in, despite the fact that being 3 inches shorter than the black student, his new jeans were even more apparently baggy.

The students have contacted numerous organizations such as the ADL, and the Chicago Urban League. The chancellor of Washington University has written a letter to the mayor of Chicago.

I’m not actually surprised that in 2009 these things still happen. These days, I’m surprised that people are surprised by them. Further, it’s disheartening to know that people and organizations feel comfortable committing these blatantly racist acts with almost no apology. Of course the bar denies any wrongdoing and sticks by their “it was a dress code issue” defense, much like that swim club in Philadelphia that turned away a group of minority children but stuck by their “our pool couldn’t accomodate the large number of children” defense, even though the President of the club wrote a letter that included a comment that there was a concern that the children would change the “complexion” of the pool.

Not only do these blatantly racist acts continue to happen, but they insult our intelligence with these lame defenses. Usually the defenses aren’t much better, but they’re short just one requirement of qualifying as a racist act and the perpetrators know this. To keep someone out of your club based on dress code is a regularly used tactic to prevent people of a certain demographic from coming in, all the while keeping everything just right of wrong.

Don’t get me wrong — sometimes required dress is important. It helps an establishment maintain a certain level of clientele. Some restaurants have dress codes, it seems every club in DC has a dress code (regardless of target clientele), hell, even Morehouse is implemeting a dress code for it’s students. But what does it say when your dress code systematically leaves out only one race of people? Does it mean only one race of people have an issue with dress, or does it mean your dress code is problematic?

As a note, the club is claiming that they take these allegations seriously and have already begun revisiting their policies as well as the training of their employees. I hope the students at Washington University also take it seriously to stay on top of this, or it will become yesterday’s news before today is over, like so many other similar situations.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | News, Oh the ignorance of the world, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment

Students Afraid of School

Family Afraid To Send Kids To School After Racist Death Threats Found on Bathroom Wall

I couldn’t embed the video, but make sure you watch it.

In short, these 3 boys attend a middle school where they are 1 of 12 black students. The school officials found in the bathroom some racial epithets and threats with their names and 3 other black students’ names also written. They’ve been out of school for a week or so, now, because they are scared for their safety. It’s the school official’s response, however, that concerns me most.

I went to a high school where I was one of 16 black students in my graduating class. At the time, we were the largest group of black students in any one class. So I empathize with what it must be like to be one of 12 at a middle school.

My concern with this story is that it’s NOT being taken seriously enough. Ultimately, prank or not (but this isn’t a prank, so we’re clear) there are students who believe this sort of speech and action is ok. These are the kids who grow up and start attacking and assaulting people because of their race, only for their parents to get on tv and say “he was such a fine young man.”

When situations like this occur, I fear that the appropriate officials feign concern for the cameras, but secretly make light of it. The reporter says the school administrators in this story thought it was probably a prank, but were still taking precautions. That doesn’t make me feel good. That makes me feel like they’ll beef up security but when nothing happens, they’ll feel justified in their prank assumptions, let their guard down and some child will be harmed.

This is bigger than potential school violence though. I read a comment on someone’s blog once. A commenter said something like “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Even stupid ones.” and I agree. I don’t really care about people being racist. I’m not seeking the end of racism, per se, as much as I want people to understand that you can think what you want, but what you think need not ever invade my space or effect my quality of life. These poor boys are living in fear, having no idea who it is that’s targeting them.

I’ll add this to my “You need proof racism still exists?” files. Unfortunately, people still need proof…

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Thank-you racist people | | Leave a comment

Race in a Post-Racial Society

I really like J. Smooth. You should check him out (Google him, baby) and subscribe to his youtube videos. My man is the truth.

I like his comments on how Asher’s Twitter misstep is an interesting look in where we are, right now.

For anyone who has not yet been told, we are, contrary to initial reports, NOT in a post-racial society. I actually don’t think we’ll ever be in a post racial society; race is too much a part of who we are and what our history is. I don’t know that that’s a good thing, but I can’t say for sure that it’s a bad thing. In any case, it seems to me that a lot of people are waiting for us to get to a place with, essentially, no boundaries, like J.Smooth was talking about. Where we no longer have to care how our words sound to other people.

I presume it’s easy to wish for that, especially when you often find yourself in awkward situations. Just this afternoon, a co-worker of mine was trying to describe the black paint that her boyfriend sometimes wears under his eyes (the athletic black paint football players use). She misspoke and said “black face.” I knew she misspoke and I knew that’s not what he really wore, but the whole room paused and everyone turned to look at me. This idea that it would be, the lone black person, who decided if it was ok to let it slide or if there needed to be more. Everyone in that room knew it was an honest mistake, but it was up to me to decide for sure.

We’re never going to live in a society where race is truly not an issue. I think we shouldn’t even be working towards that. I believe we should be working towards doing away with the ignorance that makes race a problem. The ignorance that allows stores to send their employees to follow black people around stores, or allows Hispanics to be beat up and killed because they’re presumed to be illegal immigrants.

Our black president doesn’t change the fact that we have serious issues. What having a black president hopefully does is open up dialogue. I think we should get to a place where people aren’t afraid to speak their mind, no matter what, but also understand that there are still boundaries and lines we don’t cross. I’ve never understood why a white person would want “permission” to say the n-word, or why someone would want to be able to tell a race joke in mixed company and everyone find it funny. We should live in a society where that’s not what people want.

How about we find a place where we acknowledge race and how it brings us together and makes us excitingly different?

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Ramblings, Thank-you racist people | , | 1 Comment

Wake Up!

By now we’ve all heard of the foiled skinhead plot to kill Obama. Hopefully, we’ve all also, by now, come to terms with what this means about what lays ahead for Sen. Obama. Whether he is elected President of the United States or not, this man will forever have a target on his back. His wife will be marked as will his children. Why? Because there exists a faction of Americans who don’t think a non-white person, a person of color, is fit to run our country. Nevermind all the great contributions people of color have made, nevermind the fact that this country was more/less built on the backs of these same people of color, nevermind that our current state as a nation is due in LARGE part to the old white men who this faction thinks are the only ones fit to run our country.

However, I won’t focus on the racism. That’s self-explanatory. I want to focus on the relative surprise with which this story was recieved. My home state is Tennessee. I grew up in TN, and went to college in TN. TN is the home of a lot of great things, country music (Music City, USA); the late great singer Bessie Smith was from my hometown; good BBQ (Memphis); great football (TN Titans). The state’s nickname, The Volunteer State, comes from all the Volunteers who went to TX to help with the Battle of the Alamo. Alex Haley spent his first years in TN and is buried here. I could go on and on — but one thing TN is known for that I hate to admit is that the Ku Klux Klan was founded here, not far from where I went to school. So it came as no surprise to me that the skinheads who wanted to assassinate Obama AND murder some 88 black students and behead an additional 14, were from Tennessee.

6 days from today we may very well make history and elect our first African-American President. And when we do that, the target on his back will only grow larger. Black folks know this, we’ve known it since it became clear he would get the Democratic nomination and that he might actually win. It’s the all the white folks with their heads in the sand who worry me. These people who want to kill Obama will not go blabbing their plan to every Tom, Dick and Harry they see, especially if Tom, Dick and Harry are black. But they will share it with other whites who they assume share their feelings. I NEED everyone to be alert and accept that our country is a great place, but there are still people who haven’t moved into 2008 and most likely never will. I’m not concerned with holding up a mirror to their ignorance. I want to make sure that as long as they’re still living in the past we do our best to keep them behind us and not in front of us with guns.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | News, Oh the ignorance of the world, Ramblings, surprise, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment

The Jena 6

Most folks have heard by now about the Jena 6 named so after groups like the Little Rock 9. You can read the story below — but it goes to show that racism is ALIVE AND WELL in our country, ladies and gentlemen. It only took the country 6 months to get the news story rolling. Meanwhile innocent kids are being denied justice and their future.

http://www.wiretapmag.org/race/43174 

In a small, still mostly segregated section of rural Louisiana, an all white jury heard a series of white witnesses called by a white prosecutor testify in a courtroom overseen by a white judge in a trial of a fight at the local high school where a white student who had been making racial taunts was hit by black students. The fight was the culmination of a series of racial incidents starting when whites responded to black students sitting under the “white tree” at their school by hanging three nooses from the tree. The white jury and white prosecutor and all white supporters of the white victim were all on one side of the courtroom. The black defendant, 17-year-old Mychal Bell, and his supporters were on the other. The jury quickly convicted Mychal Bell of two felonies — aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Bell, who was a 16-year-old sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, faces up to 22 years in prison. Five other black youths await similar trials on attempted second degree murder and conspiracy charges.

Yes, you read that correctly. The rest of the story, which is being reported across the world in papers in China, France and England, is just as chilling.

The trouble started under “the white tree” in front of Jena High School. The “white tree” is where the white students, 80 percent of the student body, would always sit during school breaks.

In September 2006, a black student at Jena high school asked permission from school administrators to sit under the “white tree.” School officials advised them to sit wherever they wanted. They did.

The next day, three nooses, in the school colors, were hanging from the “white tree.” The message was clear. “Those nooses meant the KKK, they meant ‘Niggers, we’re going to kill you, we’re going to hang you till you die,'” Casteptla Bailey, mom of one of the students, told the London Observer.

The Jena high school principal found that three white students were responsible and recommended expulsion. The white superintendent of schools over-ruled the principal and gave the students a three day suspension saying that the nooses were just a youthful stunt. “Adolescents play pranks,” the superintendent told the Chicago Tribune, “I don’t think it was a threat against anybody.”

The African-American community was hurt and upset. “Hanging those nooses was a hate crime, plain and simple,” according to Tracy Bowens, mother of students at Jena High.

But blacks in this area of Louisiana have little political power. The ten person all-male government of the parish has one African-American member. The nine member all-male school board has one African-American member. (A phone caller to the local school board trying to find out the racial makeup of the school board was told there was one “colored” member of the board). There is one black police officer in Jena and two black public school teachers.

Jena, with a population of less than 3000, is the largest town in and parish (county) seat of LaSalle Parish, Louisiana. There are about 350 African-Americans in the town. LaSalle has a population of just over 14,000 people — 12 percent African-American.

This is solid Bush and David Duke Country — GWB won LaSalle Parish 4 to 1 in the last two elections; Duke carried a majority of the white vote when he ran for Governor of Louisiana. Families earn about 60 percent of the national average. The Census Bureau reports that less than 10 percent of the businesses in LaSalle Parish are black owned.

Jena is the site of the infamous Juvenile Correctional Center for Youth that was forced to close its doors in 2000, only two years after opening, due to widespread brutality and racism including the choking of juveniles by guards after the youth met with a lawyer. The U.S. Department of Justice sued the private prison amid complaints that guards paid inmates to fight each other and laughed when teens tried to commit suicide.

Black students decided to resist and organized a sit-in under the “white tree” at the school to protest the light suspensions given to the noose-hanging white students.

The white District Attorney then came to Jena High with law enforcement officers to address a school assembly. According to testimony in a later motion in court, the DA reportedly threatened the black protesting students saying that if they didn’t stop making a fuss about this “innocent prank — I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I can take away your lives with a stroke of my pen.” The school was put on lockdown for the rest of the week.

Racial tensions remained high throughout the fall.

On the night of Thursday November 30, 2006, a still unsolved fire burned down the main academic building of Jena High School.

On Friday night, December 1, a black student who showed up at a white party was beaten by whites. On Saturday, December 2, a young white man pulled out a shotgun in a confrontation with young black men at the Gotta Go convenience store outside Jena before the men wrestled it away from him. The black men who took the shotgun away were later arrested, no charges were filed against the white man.

On Monday, December 4, at Jena High, a white student — who allegedly had been making racial taunts, including calling African-American students “niggers” while supporting the students who hung the nooses and who beat up the black student at the off-campus party — was knocked down, punched and kicked by black students. The white victim was taken to the hospital treated and released. He attended a social function that evening.

Six black Jena students were arrested and charged with attempted second degree murder. All six were expelled from school.

The six charged were: 17-year-old Robert Bailey Junior whose bail was set at $138,000; 17-year-old Theo Shaw — bail $130,000; 18-year-old Carwin Jones — bail $100,000; 17-year-old Bryant Purvis — bail $70,000; 16-year-old Mychal Bell, a sophomore in high school who was charged as an adult and for whom bail was set at $90,000; and a still unidentified minor.

Many of the young men, who came to be known as the Jena 6, stayed in jail for months. Few families could afford bond or private attorneys.

Mychal Bell remained in jail from December 2006 until his trial because his family was unable to post the $90,000 bond. Theo Shaw has also remained in jail. Several of the other defendants remained in jail for months until their families could raise sufficient money to put up bonds.

The Chicago Tribune wrote a powerful story headlined “Racial Demons Rear Heads.” The London Observer wrote: “Jena is gaining national notoriety as an example of the new ‘stealth’ racism, showing how lightly sleep the demons of racial prejudice in America’s Deep South, even in the year that a black man, Barak Obama, is a serious candidate for the White House.” The British Broadcasting Company aired a TV special report “Race Hate in Louisiana 2007.”

The Jena 6 and their families were put under substantial pressure to plead guilty. Mychal Bell was reported to have been leaning towards pleading guilty right up until his trial when he decided he would not plead guilty to a felony.

When it finally came, the trial of Mychal Bell was swift. Bell was represented by an appointed public defender.

On the morning of the trial, the DA reduced the charges from attempted second degree murder to second degree aggravated battery and conspiracy. Aggravated battery in Louisiana law demands the attack be with a dangerous weapon. The dangerous weapon? The prosecutor was allowed to argue to the jury that the tennis shoes worn by Bell could be considered a dangerous weapon used by “the gang of black boys” who beat the white victim.

Most shocking of all, when the pool of potential jurors was summoned, fifty people appeared — every single one white.

The LaSalle Parish clerk defended the all white group to the Alexandria Louisiana Town Talk newspaper saying that the jury pool was selected by computer. “The venire [panel of prospective jurors] is color blind. The idea is for the list to truly reflect the racial makeup of the community, but the system does not take race into factor.” Officials said they had summoned 150 people, but these were the only people who showed up.

The all-white jury which was finally chosen included two people friendly with the District Attorney, a relative of one of the witnesses and several others who were friends of prosecution witnesses.

Bell’s parents, Melissa Bell and Marcus Jones, were not even allowed to attend the trial despite their objections, because they were listed as potential witnesses. The white victim, though a witness, was allowed to stay in the courtroom. The parents, who had been widely quoted in the media as critics of the process, were also told they could no longer speak to the media as long as the trial was in session. Marcus Jones had told the media “It’s all about those nooses” and declared the charges racially motivated.

Other supporters who planned a demonstration in support of Bell were ordered by the court not to do so near the courthouse or anywhere the judge would see them.

The prosecutor called 17 witnesses — eleven white students, three white teachers, and two white nurses. Some said they saw Bell kick the victim, others said they did not see him do anything. The white victim testified that he did not know if Bell hit him or not.

The Chicago Tribune reported the public defender did not challenge the all-white jury pool, put on no evidence and called no witnesses. The public defender told the Alexandria Town talk after resting his case without calling any witnesses that he knew he would be second-guessed by many but was confident that the jury would return a verdict of not guilty. “I don’t believe race is an issue in this trial — I think I have a fair and impartial jury.”

The jury deliberated for less than three hours and found Mychal Bell guilty on the maximum possible charges of aggravated second degree battery and conspiracy. He faces up to a maximum of 22 years in prison.

The public defender told the press afterwards, “I feel I put on the best defense that I could.” Responding to criticism of not putting on any witnesses, the attorney said “why open the door for further accusations? I did the best I could for my client, Mychal Bell.”

At a rally in front of the courthouse the next day, Alan Bean, a Texas minister and leader of the Friends of Justice, said “I have seen a lot of trials in my time. And I have never seen a more distressing miscarriage of justice than what happened in LaSalle Parish yesterday.” Khadijah Rashad of Lafayette Louisiana described the trial as a “modern day lynching.”

Tory Pegram with the Louisiana ACLU has been working with the parents for months. “People know if they don’t demand equal treatment now, they will never get it. People’s jobs and livelihoods have been threatened for attending Jena 6 Defense meetings, but people are willing to risk that. One person told me: ‘We have to convince more people to come rally with us. What’s the worst that could happen? They fire us from our jobs? We have the worst jobs in the town anyway. They burn a cross on our lawns or burn down my house? All of that has happened to us before. We have to keep speaking out to make sure it doesn’t happen to us again, or our children will never be safe.'”

Whites in the community were adamant that there is no racism. “We don’t have a problem,” according to one. Other locals told the media “We all get along,” and “most blacks are happy with the way things are.” One person even said “We don’t have many problems with our blacks.”

Melvin Worthington, the lone African-American school board member in LaSalle Parish said it all could have been avoided. “There’s no doubt about it,” he told the Chicago Tribune, “whites and blacks are treated differently here. The white kids should have gotten more punishment for hanging those nooses. If they had, all the stuff that followed could have been avoided.”

Hebert McCoy, a relative of one of the youths who has been trying to raise money for bail and lawyers, challenged people everywhere at the end of the rally when he said “You better get out of your houses. You better come out and defend your children — because they are incarcerating them by the thousands. Jena’s not the beginning, but Jena has crossed the line. Justice is not right when you put on the wrong charges and then convict. I believe in justice. I believe in the point of law. I believe in accepting the punishment if I’m guilty. If I’m guilty, convict me and punishment, but if I’m innocent, no justice.” And the crowd joined with him and shouted “no peace!”

What happened to the white guys? The white victim of the beating was later arrested for bringing a hunting rifle loaded with 13 bullets onto the high school campus and released on $5000 bond. The white man who beat up the black youth at the off-campus party was arrested and charged with simple battery. The white students who hung up the nooses in the “white tree” were never charged.

The people in Jena are fighting for justice and they need legal and financial help. Since the arrests, a group of family members have been holding well-attended meetings, and have created a defense fund – the Jena 6 Defense Committee. They have received support from the NAACP, the Louisiana ACLU and Friends of Justice. People interested in supporting can contact: the Jena 6 Defense Committee, PO Box 2798, Jena, LA 71342 jena6defense [at] gmail.com; Friends of Justice, 507 North Donley Avenue, Tulia, TX 79088; or the ACLU of Louisiana, PO Box 56157, New Orleans, LA 70156.

What is next? The rest of the Jena 6 await similar trials. Theodore Shaw is due to go on trial shortly. Mychal Bell is scheduled to be sentenced July 31. If he gets the maximum sentence he will not be out of prison until he is nearly 40. Meanwhile, the “white tree” outside Jena High sits quietly in the hot sun.

I think it’s ridiculous that we’ve sent thousands and thousands (heck, are we in the millions, now) of men and women to conquer a nation so we can show them the “right” way (please, see the sarcasm dripping from my words, and DON’T get me started on the war) to run a country while we can’t even run our own? Who are we to tell anyone else how to do their thing when we still threaten to LYNCH people? Whoo-Lordy. I tell ya. The hypocrisy of this nation is mind-boggling. Am I the only one concerned?

August 10, 2007 Posted by | News, Thank-you racist people | Leave a comment