Racist Incident Roils PA High School – Gimme That Old-Time Socialization

11 10 2007

Especially for Alasandra — we’ve been grumbling and snarking because, if you listen to the talking heads with their incessant literal and media megaphones, only the South has a real race problem. So if there are detestable “school socialization” difficulties elsewhere, it’s still probably our fault, for setting a bad example!

(AP) LITITZ, Pa.- For years, a clique of high school students in this prosperous and overwhelmingly white borough have worn clothes adorned with Confederate flags and parked their pickups in a section of the school parking lot known as “redneck row.”

The display, some parents of minority students say, was just one symptom of festering racism that school officials ignored until animosities boiled over last week.

. . .The “disturbing and repulsive” Oct. 3 confrontation was a “wake-up call” for Warwick High School said Superintendent John George.

“Perhaps we were lulled into a false sense that our school district was immune to racism and bigotry,” he said.

Some students suspect the perpetrators were trying to imitate white students in Jena, La.

. . .”What is racial intimidation? It’s trying to have power over someone else,” [Police Chief William] Sease said. “I think that’s their motivation.”

Erasmo Cora Jr., a Puerto Rican native whose 14-year-old son, Erik, was among the victims, said the school should expel all of the roughly dozen students who allegedly engaged in racist behavior.

. . .At a community meeting Monday, some parents said their earlier complaints about Confederate flag displays and racial slurs fell on deaf ears. Others complained that the district took too long to punish the perpetrators.

. . .The high school is just blocks away from a picturesque downtown, the hub of the borough of about 9,000 residents founded in 1756. Lititz is known for quaint shops, artists and Sturgis Pretzel House, which bills itself as America’s first pretzel bakery, and is named after a Bohemian castle.

. . .”They always had the flags, but they never did anything to the black kids,” said Burkman, 17, who is white. “I don’t understand why it all happened this year.”

Others speculate that the perpetrators felt threatened by a growing but still tiny minority population at the high school. Hispanics account for roughly 3 percent and blacks 2 percent of this year’s total enrollment.

That’s the Warwick School District if you’re looking. . .
but really, NINETY-FIVE percent white! – and the kids themselves think five percent “other” is enough to make them feel “threatened?”

“School’s Out — Of Control!”
and maybe so is everything else.


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24 responses

11 10 2007
Alasandra

Thanks for the link.

I wonder what the solution is?

11 10 2007
JJ

Doc is posting this week about being hated and targeted online — is it because she’s gay, or because she stands out from the crowd in a way that makes fearful, small minds resent her regardless?

I wonder if some of these media-frenzy threats using horrific symbolism aren’t necessarily about race, sex, or other earthshaking discrimination as much as they are about fearful, twisted, small-minded individuals who will grab any excuse to tear someone else down, hoping that will make themselves feel more secure as part of a cause or or group or team. The police chief is right — any sort of intimidation is about trying to gain power over others; I think although race or sex or religion are often the overt justification, it will be something no matter what. It is bullying.

12 10 2007
Alasandra

You are so right, sometimes it’s because a child wears glasses, are they are smaller/bigger then the other kids. It seems some people can find a reason to hate and torment others no matter how insignificant the difference is.

12 10 2007
Alasandra

Oh, I stopped by to tell you the Bell boy is back in jail. The judge decided the attack violated his parole for a previous conviction.

12 10 2007
JJ

Thanks, I hadn’t heard that.
It’s like watching a football game with too many things happening in one moment all up and down the field, on both offense and defense. (Not to mention OFF the field — players taking steroids, gambling, attacking women in hotel rooms, abusing animals, etc. I just read that courtly tennis of all things, needs a global summit to consider the corruption of “throwing games!“)

We all know all the rules but still fight furiously over what we’re seeing and what it all means, who should be penalized for it when, and by how much. The referees can’t see and call everything on every play, and so even with technology to go replay and review, try to fix mistakes and be fair, grudges build and the mob mentality will sometimes take over and cause rioting? The players fight each other, the fans fight each other, and everybody wants to kill the umpire sooner or later. . .

I think I’ll go see what’s online about conflict resolution . . .

12 10 2007
JJ

“The man who says he is willing to meet you halfway is usually
a poor judge of distance.”

– Laurence J. Peter

Education is the answer, no doubt.
Real education — not schooling as a cover for indoctrination secular or religious, which just makes things worse. I know there are valuable conflict resolution lessons to be learned but we’re not too good at “teaching” them in regular schooling, as lessons. Maybe it’s impossible to “school” someone into being a real human being, dunno.

Here are some conflict resolution” skills set up as school lessons, from Educators for Social Responsibility. See what you think.

My first thought was that our compulsory, politicized school system itself violates just about every principle of structured conflict resolution, as described here for example :

Excerpted from “Elementary Perspectives: Teaching Concepts of Peace and Conflict” by William J. Kreidler.

1. Explain that when there is a conflict, there is a problem.
2. When trying to resolve conflicts, it helps to have a way to think about the problem and to attempt to solve it.
3. Place the following steps on the board:
1. Define the problem.
2. Brainstorm solutions.
3. Choose a solution and act on it.
4. Go over each step with the class.
5. Point out that before the problem solving begins, the people in the conflict have to agree to work it out. In order for problem solving to work, they have to agree to really try to work it out, and to not yell or call names. They want to DE-escalate the conflict, not escalate it.
6. Emphasize that in step two they want to come up with as many possible solutions as they can.
7. In step three they want to choose a solution(s) that is win-win.
8. Encourage students to define problems in a way that does not affix blame.

Honestly intending and agreeing to work it out, by generating multiple creative solutions to de-escalate conflict, avoid blame and result in win-win? Doesn’t sound much like the school environment we read and write about every day!

Martin Luther King Jr. gave my generation a free moral education integrating these character lessons into real civic life, without using the law to force it on kids in school:

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

- Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

12 10 2007
Doc

Sometimes I can see my own son’s desire to bully. I keep him in check of course, and the urge is fading for him, as he matures. When he was young, he was always the smallest (my triplets were premature), wore glasses, was awkward in sports. Now he’s 6-2, very handsome, and a standout in three sports. He towers over the kids who once bullied him, sometimes violently, while other parents stood and watched, with the idea that it would “toughen him up” because as everyone knew “there’s no man in that household”. He was in a fight last week, broke his arm. I can feel the hatred of anyone different just below the surface of this place. I live in a small town that is very, very white, where a small contingent of kids drive around in jacked up trucks, complete with rebel flags and all the trappings of a clan of southern hillbillies. I think it’s some kind of trendy thing to be “red neck”. See “Gretchen Wilson”. I don’t know what my son’s fight was about. Two boys just sizing each other up? Or maybe the other boy threw a slur at him? I fear it’s the same everywhere. It’s a side of conservatism that’s risen up like a red tide, the worst the right has to offer. A byproduct of an administration that doesn’t value human life.

12 10 2007
JJ

“Valuing human life” — a prime example of everyone agreeing they’re for it, and then breaking the rule in defense of it, by trying to kill each other over it!

12 10 2007
JJ

Favorite Daughter and I heard the NPR interview with “Foreskin’s Lament” author Shalom Auslander, in which he said his extremely narrow Hassidic Jewish schooling could easily have induced him to fly airplanes into buildings. All it takes is enough belief that your tribe is being wronged, and people telling you that your god wants you to go fight to right it. Auslander is trying hard to stop believing in the vengeful god instilled into his childhood head, but despairs that he can’t. So he’s warning us.

Here’s a mainstream story about “grassroots” emotion that made an anti-immigration ideologue of a nice lady, the equivalent extremism imo of flying planes into buildings to protect her tribe, because she believes god wants her to. She says it’s about “illegal” but it’s really about her feeling that her own kind is being threatened, and the right thing to do is fight back.

June 10, 2007
Grass Roots Roared and Immigration Plan Collapsed
By JULIA PRESTON

WASHINGTON, Mich., June 8 — The undoing of the immigration bill in the Senate this week had many players, but none more effective than angry voters like Monique Thibodeaux, who joined a nationwide campaign to derail it.

Mrs. Thibodeaux, an office manager at a towing company here in suburban Detroit, became politically active as she never had before. Guided by conservative Internet organizations, she made calls and sent e-mail messages to senators across the country and pushed her friends to do the same.

“These people came in the wrong way, so they don’t belong here, period,” Mrs. Thibodeaux, a Republican, said of some 12 million illegal immigrants who would have been granted a path to citizenship under the Senate bill.

“In my heart I knew it was wrong for our country,” she said of the measure.

Supporters of the legislation defended it as an imperfect but pragmatic solution to the difficult problem of illegal immigration. Public opinion polls, including a New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted last month, showed broad support among Americans for the bill’s major provisions.

But the legislation sparked a furious rebellion among many Republican and even some Democratic voters, who were linked by the Internet and encouraged by radio talk show hosts. Their outrage and activism surged to full force after Senator Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who was an author of the bill, suggested early this week that support for the measure seemed to be growing. The assault on lawmakers in Washington was relentless. . . . there was a glow of victory among opponents on Friday.

“Technologically enhanced grass-roots activism is what turned this around, people empowered by the Internet and talk radio,” said Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group.

Mr. Hanna suggested the passion and commitment were on the side of the opponents.

“The opposition to the amnesty plan is so much more intense than the intensity of the supporters,” said Mr. Hanna, speaking of the bill’s provisions to grant legal status to qualifying illegal immigrants, which the authors of the legislation insisted was not amnesty. . .

Her strong feelings about the immigration issue came gradually, she said. A nephew who works as a house painter had trouble finding high-paying work because of competition from illegal immigrants. Some Mexican teenagers hassled her on the street, seeming to mock her because she walks with a cane. She spotted immigrants shopping with food stamps at the grocery store.

Mrs. Thibodeaux said she favored orderly legal immigration, but did not think illegal immigrants should benefit from American generosity.

“I have a very hard time with illegal,” she said. . .

So I think yes, it’s about racial prejudice in one sense (what she believes about the immigrants) but the bigger debilitation we should worry about and try to address, is what she believes of herself, what her own life is about, why she is here and whether god chose her “people” for something so special that they should destroy anyone who gets in their way.

12 10 2007
JJ

This NYT report about fierce political infighting surely connects, but I’m not so sure what we should “learn” from it!:

. . . the in-fighting can seem unreal, as with the recent fury directed by gay groups at Mr. Frank.

“Barney Frank is not gay enough?” asked Representative Thaddeus McCotter, Republican of Michigan, one of the most conservative members of the House .

Even Mr. Frank acknowledged the weirdness. . .

But many gay rights groups said they were truly angry and bewildered. . .

12 10 2007
Nance Confer

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/education/12columbia.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Noose Case Puts Focus on a Scholar of Race

********************

Surely another connection. And this is at the Teacher’s College.

Nance

12 10 2007
Nance Confer

And if the Teacher’s College isn’t a safe place, what of my neighborhood with the new guy with the giant confederate flag on his truck and the youngish fellows down the street who just moved into that rental with the pit bull and the pickups and the cowboy hats?

I don’t know any of them, of course. How rude of me to assume flying that flag and walking that dog in an otherwise tame neighborhood means anything. Maybe they’re all just a bunch of good ol’ boy cowboys. . . oh wait, that’s what I AM worried about.

School or education — it’s not feeling any safer outside the ivy-covered walls than inside.

Nance

13 10 2007
JJ

Lynn has a thread about homeschool group prejudice and exclusion going at Bore Me to Tears: “We’re inclusive — as long as you’re just like us.” To Nance’s observations of racial prejudice both in and out of school, and to Alasandra’s question about what can be done, here’s a long essay from Harvard’s Project on Law and Mind Sciences blog, The Situationist, lots of related links at the end:
********

Luckily, attitudes can be changed as a function of experience as well as guilt and perhaps Yi’s grudging but final acceptance of playing Milwaukee as well as his enthusiastic reception by the community, Caucasian and Asian alike, can open up new dialogues between the Caucasian and Asian-American communities in the “northern Midwest.”

Regrettably, majority-led racism and prejudice does still exist in Middle America and even today sports commentators in Omaha, Nebraska can mock entire communities on-air by adopting a stereotypical Asian accent (”Mirraukee”) and call Chinese people “Chinamen” with little to no repercussion (as the video below illustrates).

In the end, I hope that all forms of prejudice will be more vigilantly challenged — from the implicit attitudes that go unnoticed to the explicit attitudes that go unchallenged.

* * *

Numerous previous Situationist posts, including the following, have looked at different types of stereotypes and their effects: “Unlevel Playing Fields,” “Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas,” “Race Attributions and Georgetown University Basketball,” “Black History is Now” and “Implicit Bias and Strawmen,” “Prejudice Against the Obese,” “Your Group Is Bad at Math,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” “Dueling Stereotypes and the Law,” and “Don W-Ho?”

Situationist Contributor Jerry Kang has an interesting 1996 article on the problem of “negative action” against Asian Americans which can result from certain forms of affirmative action.

13 10 2007
JJ

So I was checking out the Situationist links, starting with “Your Group is Bad at Math” detailing how college women good at math are seriously undermined if they’re set up in advance by the responsibility of representing their whole “group” well against social stereotype.

It made me wonder if homeschool moms good at parenting and parent-protected education for their own kids, are undermined by feeling the similar responsibility to represent homeschooling well, against social stereotype. Do certain homeschool “advocates” inflict performance anxiety and subsequent failure on each other INSIDE the community, by persistently defining certain choices with stereotypically high stakes, as if any homeschooler experimenting with coursework or hybrid programs drives a stake through the heart of the entire group? Is it really “support” and “information” to put newbies on notice that the future of homeschool independence depends on them — or will that very pressure itself sabotage their ability to perform as the independent, confident individuals we all want to help each other remain?

This comment really got to me, I guess:

“Bipolars always go off their meds.” — told you by numerous people when you are diagnosed in your 20’s. You never go off your meds to defeat the stereotype, your kidneys die because you won’t go off your meds, turns out you aren’t even bipolar.

Moral of story: counter-dependence isn’t a good life plan.

13 10 2007
JJ

Wow – check this one out:
“Dueling Stereotypes and the Law”

When a few classmates razzed Rebeka Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, “Do you have 10 moms?” she shot back: “That’s so gay.”

Those three words landed the high school freshman in the principal’s office and resulted in a lawsuit that raises this question: When do playground insults used every day all over America cross the line into hate speech that must be stamped out?

13 10 2007
JJ

Speaking of harmful homeschool prejudice, Valerie found some that’s not just academic (in either sense of the word).

The last hurdle in the admissions process for home-schooled students is persuading colleges that they have the social smarts to get along with their traditionally educated peers.

“There is an assumption that kids who are home-schooled are strange, that their idea of having a good time is sitting in a tree,” says Mr. Reider, the college counselor.

. . .Oh, come on. The prejudice of non-homeschoolers is not the fault of homeschoolers.

13 10 2007
JJ

More on the “dueling stereotype” case study between religious and sexual stereotyping in student speech. Does either kind of slur justify administrative punishment when uttered at school? This answer from a judge fails to persuade me.

(To be perfectly free in my own speech, I find it gratuitous, insufficiently principled to be of much use to administrators in the future, politically ham-handed and foolishly anti-parent too. I could see treating both kinds of hurtful speech similarly at school, but if as a judge you’re gonna protect one stereotyped minority even in casual conversation while insulting the other YOURSELF — in your court order! — you’d better do it better than this . . .)

During a trial in February, Rebekah Rice testified she said “That’s so gay” as a response to other students asking her rude questions about her Mormon upbringing.

Rushing said the school district was not liable for monetary damages because the law under which the Rices brought the lawsuit specifically excludes schools. In addition, she said that school officials are given wide latitude in deciding how to enforce non-discrimination provisions of the state education code.

“The decision to impose graduated discipline on Rebekah is one that falls squarely within the discretion of the defendants,” the judge wrote, adding that it didn’t make sense to have the referral stricken from the girl’s school record since she graduated last year.

The lawsuit also accused the public high school of having a double-standard because, they say, administrators never sought to shield Rebekah from teasing based on Mormon stereotypes. It further alleged the Rices were singled out because of the family’s conservative views on sexuality.

In yesterday’s opinion, Rushing rejected each claim, going so far as to suggest that the Rices had created a miserable situation for Rebekah by advertising their dissatisfaction with the school’s handling of the incident during her freshman year.

“If the Rice family had not told everyone that Rebekah had been given a referral for saying ‘That’s so gay’ then no one else would have known it either, and she would not have been referred to as the ‘That’s so gay girl,’” the judge wrote.

Neither the Rices nor their lawyer returned telephone calls seeking comment from the Associated Press.

Rushing concluded her ruling by saying that even if the judicial branch could not help in this case, the Rices have other options, including running for school board or lobbying to change state laws.

“Through their many activities at their children’s schools, plaintiffs have generated a great deal of dialogue about the extent to which our schools should become involved in traditionally non-academic subjects such as morality, religion, sexuality and politics,” she said.

13 10 2007
JJ

“Students take anger to the streets over Anderson verdict”

“Some Tallahassee residents outraged at verdict”

. . .Shayla Spann received a text message about Florida A&M University students planning a protest at the Capitol. She felt like she needed to be there.

“A lot of people are getting off on doing wrong,” Spann said. “This is America, and we have a judicial system that stands on the foundation of the Constitution.”

Wonder if she’d be willing to explain that prosecution mindset to the Jena protesters for the defense, though? That’s where emotion-based justice (and all partisan politics) breaks down for me, when the same argument passionately advanced by the same person, isn’t also applied to the next case, when group allegiances are flipped around.

13 10 2007
JJ

Al Gore’s quote in NYT column entitled “The Trivial Pursuit” today — personally I am with him all the way on this!

“What politics has become,” he said, with a laugh and a tinge of regret, “requires a level of tolerance for triviality and artifice and nonsense that I have found in short supply.”

13 10 2007
JJ

Something to consider from another new Nobel winner, British writer Doris Lessing:

There is obviously something very attractive about telling other people what to do: I am putting it in this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I see it as nursery behavior.

. . .It troubles me that political correctness does not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it troubles me more that it may know and does not care.

Does political correctness have a good side? Yes, it does, for it makes us re-examine attitudes, and that is always useful.

The trouble is that, with all popular movements, the lunatic fringe so quickly ceases to be a fringe; the tail begins to wag the dog. For every woman or man who is quietly and sensibly using the idea to examine our assumptions, there are 20 rabble-rousers whose real motive is desire for power over others, no less rabble-rousers because they see themselves as anti-racists or feminists or whatever.

16 10 2007
Ignore the Noose and Sap Racism’s Power « Cocking A Snook!

[...] THINGS CONSIDERED, October 16, 2007     “In light of the resurgence of nooses appearing in places like Jena, La., and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, here’s a modest proposal: The next time somebody plants a noose, let’s just ignore it. [...]

17 10 2007
Stereotyping Homeschoolers Hurts, Even Justified as Counterdependence « Cocking A Snook!

[...] Stereotyping Homeschoolers Hurts, Even Justified as Counterdependence 17 10 2007 (moving up comment from racial stereotype thread) [...]

17 10 2007
JJ

What to make of this (bizarro) story?

It’s also student bullying and beating at an education institution. Race, religion, sexual orientation or other hate crime designation isn’t mentioned. How much should the psychology or status of your tormentor matter when you’re getting beaten? And how far does school administration responsibility go, to protect each student’s right to access and due process, while also protecting each student from all the other students, and the school itself from legal culpability that may divert millions meant for education funding? Does it matter more when you’re literally at home as well as at school, and students are living on campus? What if the bully had been systematically beating up his victim in a student apartment nearby but only intimidating him non-physically while on campus? What if there had been no actual beating at all but symbolic hazing such as slurs and malicious rumors being spread? Can/ should/must the school connect it all and be responsible for it all, or be hands-off about what doesn’t literally happen on campus?

October 16, 2007
Woolly Bully: Student Sues College for Failing to Protect Him From Tormentor

A former student has sued Daniel Webster College, saying the New Hampshire institution was negligent in failing to protect him from a fellow student who harassed and assaulted him, The Telegraph, a newspaper in Nashua, N.H., reported today.

The plaintiff, Jerid Vilardo, enrolled at Daniel Webster in 2004, and within two weeks another student was antagonizing him, according to the lawsuit. One time the bully, who is not named in the lawsuit, opened Mr. Vilardo’s windows and struck him repeatedly with a lacrosse stick while he lay in bed, the suit says.

Mr. Vilardo argues that his dormitory was improperly supervised and its staff members insufficiently trained. He says administrators should have known that the bully had a history of hazing and abuse, and they should have expelled him once they learned of his behavior, which Mr. Vilardo brought to their attention. The college eventually expelled the bully, the lawsuit says, but he apparently continued to appear on the campus and harass Mr. Vilardo, who finally dropped out.

The lawsuit says Mr. Vilardo “had a reasonable expectation that he could rely upon the college’s obligation as both an educational institution and a residential program to maintain a safe environment.” Mr. Vilardo is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. —Sara Lipka

22 10 2007
JJ

For that matter, what IS a “safe environment” exactly, and how safe is safe enough for government work?

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