racism

Duncanville Independent School District trustees voted this past week to terminate the employment of English teacher Vinita Hegwood.

Earlier this month it was revealed Ms. Hegwood had made some racially charged tweets regarding the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Fox News.com reports:

Duncanville Independent School District trustees unanimously voted to terminate Vinita Hegwood’s contract. Hegwood, who is black, has apologized for comments made Nov. 7 on her Twitter account that were laced with expletives and derogatory references to whites and blacks. Administrators have called the remarks “reprehensible.”

The tweets were related to the case of Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was fatally shot Aug. 9. The shooting prompted protests, including some that turned violent, along with ongoing unrest in and around Ferguson, which is just outside St. Louis.

In the apology issued through a teachers union Thursday, Hegwood said she was sorry for “the offensive and unprofessional comments.”

“In making those remarks, I was reacting to a series of threatening and racist attacks against me by strangers who disagreed with my expressed opinions on Ferguson, Missouri. I allowed myself to respond emotionally and impulsively,” she said.

You can view some of Hegwood’s tweets at the Weasel Zippers blog.

Read the full Fox News story.

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Well here’s something you don’t see everyday – a college student defending microaggressions. And he actually does a pretty decent job of it. His main point is that not asking people about themselves – their heritage, their background, etc. – actually hinders the process of breaking down barriers and learning about one another.

Ian Grice of North Carolina State University writes in the The Technician campus newspaper in part that:

… asking questions to try to understand someone’s culture is almost never a bad thing and usually is not an expression of racist attitudes. The term racial micro-aggressions implies, falsely I feel, that the conversation is racially motivated when, more often than not, they are more about subcultures.

Though it exists as a social construct, race is not a biological fact. Scientists have known for years that there is no such thing as race. Alan R. Templeton, Ph.D., professor of biology in arts and sciences at Washington University, published a dissertation, asserting there is more diversity within a single “race” than among “races.”

My high school in Germany was host to a lot of racial and cultural diversity, much more than the schools in the U.S. that I’ve attended, and probably far more diverse than NC State. In that environment, as it should be everywhere, ethnicity was not a taboo subject. Students were socially encouraged to ask questions that are considered racial micro-aggressions and the diversity that arose was a culturally enriching fact of life. Such is life in the international world that we live in, where race can be a non-issue. …

Questions and behaviors that can be labeled micro-aggressions should be expressed. Assuming someone grew up and didn’t experience a wide array of people, how else would that person learn about other cultures? Asking people about themselves gives us a better chance to learn about culture and identity.

Since coming to NC State, nearly no one has asked my ethnicity, which has been a new experience for me. All my life, people have asked me about it, whereas here people either don’t seem to care or they are too overly sensitive to ask. I understand now that it is a taboo; I knew when I crossed that invisible line of asking someone’s ethnicity. A question as simple as “What’s your ethnicity?” can be a great icebreaker, and questions like that give you a reason to learn your own family’s history.

Read the full column.

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University of North Carolina junior Ishmael Bishop has some … interesting views on what a college experience should be all about.

After invoking the legacy of American slavery and the fact that UNC has been open to African-Americans only since 1955, Bishop bemoans that, despite the college promising him “a fair and holistic education upon enrollment,” he is “surrounded by systems of support that do not actually guarantee [his] academic success.”

He writes in The Daily Tar Heel:

Due to racist prerequisites, some students of color or low socioeconomic status are excluded from pursuing certain majors. In eight semesters, it is nearly impossible to graduate with a bachelors of science in a STEM field if you must first complete a course in “College Algebra.” Most students who place out of this prerequisite can either afford the SAT Subject Tests or have access to a school with an adequate teaching staff for teaching Advancement Placement courses.

“Separate but equal” is an absurd justification for segregation based on race, so why do we condone such exclusively unequal opportunities? Any student graduating from an accredited N.C. high school should be able to complete any course of study that results in a degree.

To address issues of academic preparedness and encourage the pursuit of STEM degrees, the University should increase the availability of tutors and open up sustainable lines of communication between students and professor. This should go beyond peer tutoring or meeting with a professor for sometimes inconvenient office hours.

Black students are on this campus and will prosper. If this means intervention from the courts, we have our lawyers; if it means calling upon the President to allow us access to our educational birthright, we have the National Guard. Most of all, we have our voices and we will be heard.

Wait — you mean not every college student graduates after eight semesters? Students must show competence in a certain subject before continuing in a specific program?

Who’da thought?

To be sure, Bishop addresses lower education “inequities,” especially funding, as a major contributing factor to his complaints. However, I would suggest he take a look at the Cato Institute’s study regarding Kansas City. In a nutshell, it notes

For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try.

And it failed. Dismally.

Lastly, I would suggest to Mr. Bishop that nothing guarantees success in life, academic or otherwise.

Good luck to you, sir.

Read the full article.

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University of Missouri at St. Louis student Chris Schaefer was attacked at a Ferguson, Missouri protest meeting on Thursday night, and then chased down the street after other — fellow — protesters believed he was live-streaming the meeting’s happenings on his phone.

Schaefer, who is white, eventually found safety at a nearby Walgreens, and from there was taken to a hospital to have “multiple injuries” treated.

Gateway Pundit notes a reaction from the Facebook “Justice for Mike Brown” page:

The meeting we had earlier at the church at 9950 Glen Owen Dr, St Louis, MO, alot of us attended the meeting but what happened with the attack on a peaceful protester was wrong and should have been handled a different way. Some of us already know that no live-streaming is allowed at the meeting and but when they told him to stop live streaming he probably didn’t hear or understand and when everbody just rushed him and told to stop live streaming and get the F××k out and then all of sudden he gets jumped and attacked. He is a student at UMSL college and he has been out there with us protesting on regular nights. Some of us know who he is, his name is Chris Schaefer, and NO, he’s not working with the police, he is on our side. But like I said again, for some of yall to just attack him having him, running down Chambers St towards West Florissant to the Walgreens scared for his life and he steady screaming crying and flagging down cars asking for help, but he only gets help when he runs inside the Walgreens, that was wrong and F××ked up it really was he was they took him to the hospital by ambulance to be treated for injuries. That’s making us look bad, the ones that come out to protest peacefully, smh, and he is white but that don’t mean to attack him like that! We have supporters of all races!

Ferguson protester Bassem Masri tweeted that Schaefer’s race had nothing to do with the attack, just that he (allegedly) refused to stop his recording.

Is it ironic that (some) people protesting the killing of an individual who, among other things, supposedly “just didn’t listen” to a police officer, are now justifying beating the crap out of someone because … he just didn’t listen?

Schaefer put up a “video update” from his hospital room. He denies he was live-streaming and estimates his medical bills will cost about $2,000:

h/t to Truth Revolt.

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Two professors have warned that people should expect Ferguson, Missouri to be like Los Angeles in 1992 after police were acquitted in the Rodney King beating.

Indiana University law professor Jeannine Bell said “The individuals who are protesting now have suggested in speaking to the press given the ongoing protests in Ferguson that that could happen.”

CBS St. Louis reports:

Bell, who is a criminal procedure expert and has written about police crimes and hate crimes, explained that the situation in Ferguson between the community and law enforcement suggests a number of things about problematic inequalities.

“This situation has brought to light the differences between police and residents which suggest that there were preexisting inequalities in Ferguson,” Bell said. “This situation is a marker for what is happening in other local cities across the country.

In the days following Brown’s death, a number of local business were looted, Ferguson police officers approached protesters in military-style gear and equipment creating what some called a threatening presence in the city, and a few members of the media were pepper-sprayed and arrested by officers. Bell stated that all of those incidents and others that have occurred in Ferguson suggest something bigger.

“Now there have been a wide variety of situations in which troubling events have happened since Brown’s death,” Bell explained. “And they suggest a perfect storm could happen if the system in Ferguson, meaning the prosecutor’s office, does what it needs to do to run interference in preventing a huger situation. There is not much to suggest that behind the scenes, the system is doing that.”

Washington University (St. Louis) political science professor Clarissa Hayward warned that it’s “hard to predict” what will happen if officer Darren Wilson is not indicted. She warned of more violence following the grand jury decision.

“If he is indicted those [protests] are not likely to stop. Still, I think that would be a positive thing for the city, because a public trial would introduce much-needed transparency,” Hayward said.

So, despite all the evidence and testimony, we should ignore what a grand jury determines and go forward with a trial anyway … so people won’t resort to violence?

Read the full article.

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Roderick Cook, who is a (wait for it!) gender, sexuality and women’s studies major at the University of Pennsylvania, says in a Daily Pennsylvanian op-ed that we need to “rethink” the very term violence.

People need to look beyond individual acts of violence, he writes, and consider the role of the larger societal paradigm — such as … the university.

(Warning: prepare yourself for a certain amount of cranium scratching.)

Many of us think of interpersonal physical violence that occurs around our school, such as gun violence and theft. Others think about the forms of violence Penn students commit against one another, such as physical altercations and sexual assault. While these things, along with a variety of other person-to-person acts, certainly constitute violence and are forms of real harm, they do not paint a complete picture of violence at Penn. These individual moments of violence are symptoms of much larger violent systems that Penn has a stake in.

We must constantly bring ourselves to stop and consider what structural forms of violence are behind those interpersonal acts described above. When we get a UPennAlert notification about a robbery on or near campus, we must stop and consider what role Penn itself may have played in that situation. We must move beyond calling the act of robbing a store or taking someone’s money “violent.” We must also use this term to refer to Penn’s role in the gentrification of West Philadelphia through the expansion of our university, which forces families out of their homes and perpetuates intergenerational poverty. Poverty combines with systematic racism, leading people to commit these crimes of survival.

There you have it. Don’t (totally) blame that “historically oppressed” individual who has robbed someone or some business (typically at gun or knife-point) because you need to consider how society has forced this person into his/her current predicament.

Cook goes on to make the same argument about “systematic misogyny,” and states that anyone who pays tuition to Penn is “complicit” because the school does business with companies that perpetuate it. (Cook doesn’t name any of the companies who supposedly engage in this “devaluing of women,” however.)

Lastly, marvel at Cook’s exquisite academic bubble-logic in the conclusion:

We must not only recognize a punch in the face as violent, but also the racist remarks that sparked the altercation, which work to uphold hundreds of years of white supremacy.

Instead of being scared to walk west of campus for fear of “violence,” we must repurpose that word to describe our own prejudices and the often racist ways that we characterize residents of Philadelphia who aren’t students.

Those who are quick to call rocket launches from Gaza “violent” must also work to understand the violence of displacement and decades of settler colonialism, restricted movement and denial of resources.

Leaving aside the farcical historical ignorance of the last point, based on this (and intertwined with Cook’s previous arguments), what should then be most distressing to Penn students — and by extrapolation, all college attendees — is that the very institutions which supposedly serve the interests of the “marginalized” perhaps better than any other … are sustaining this cycle of violence of which Cook speaks.

Get out now, students!

Dave Huber is an assistant editor at  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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