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That's not racially transcendent
August 26, 2010 8:21 PM   Subscribe


 
A high school in my hometown used to have separate white and black valedictorians.
posted by The Giant Squid at 8:26 PM on August 26, 2010


Gawker says:
When one Nettleton mother approached the school board, wondering—among other things, obviously—which "category" her mixed-race kids (Italian and Native American) fell under, she was told the following:

They told me that they "Go by the mother's race b/c with minorities the father isn't generally in the home." They also told me that "a city court order is the reason why it is this way."
Holy shit! What a piece of work.
posted by bewilderbeast at 8:29 PM on August 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


That sound? My jaw hitting the desk.
posted by maudlin at 8:38 PM on August 26, 2010


Mississippi goddamn, indeed.
posted by Vervain at 8:40 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


They told me that they "Go by the mother's race b/c with minorities the father isn't generally in the home."

These people are raising your kids.
posted by Jimbob at 8:41 PM on August 26, 2010 [27 favorites]


Are you kidding me?!
posted by audacity at 8:41 PM on August 26, 2010


Holy shit. I still can't believe that this is real.
posted by rossination at 8:43 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the funniest shit I have read today.

And I've done very little work today. Just read funny shit. And this is the funniest shit.
posted by Wataki at 8:44 PM on August 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


I know that by now I shouldn't be surprised in the slightest by any of this. But, like, what the fuck?
posted by kosem at 8:44 PM on August 26, 2010


This confirms my belief that the least competent bureaucracies, putting aside the B.I.A., are in the public school system, and that the chief failure of desegregation-by-decree was that courts didn't simply take over every rule-oriented function. The only thing that prevents them from reaching even greater levels of insanity is that various officials keep absconding with all their desperately needed money.

Now I feel a little better, thanks.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:45 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


The second comment from the top adds some context*:
I'm not trying to defend my adopted state or this small Mississippi town. There's no real excuse, and unfortunately this is fairly representative (from what I've experienced in northeast Mississippi, and part of southern Mississippi). In many cases (and this is not just Mississippi) these types of things alternate from year to year. One year's prom king/queen or class president, whatever, will be black, the next year will be white.

You probably cannot understand the way the Deep South or Mississippi works unless you live in it. Mississippians are very resistant to change. This state has seen tumultuous change in its history; but it has mostly been forced into this change (for the right reasons, completely.) There is virtually no level of trust between whites and African Americans. People grow up with segregation in every part of their lives. I've actually questioned a few natives and the general consensus is "that's how we like it," or "that's just the way it is." [...]
*Context that really should have been in the article in the first place. Guess I expect too much from the internet these days.
posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 8:46 PM on August 26, 2010 [8 favorites]



Thanks for points that out Throw away, I was wondering what the rationale for this and couldn't come up with one. Now the merits of that rationale is a different story.
posted by dealing away at 8:49 PM on August 26, 2010


Throw away..., it's called Gawker, not Understander. Pointing and mocking is their bread and butter.
posted by mondaygreens at 8:51 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Spy - White
Spy - Black


Vote early, vote often.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 PM on August 26, 2010 [49 favorites]


It's getting hard to tell what's satire these days.
posted by twirlypen at 8:52 PM on August 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


If it were satire it would fall flat for being too much.
posted by amethysts at 8:55 PM on August 26, 2010


Throwaway, thanks; that could very well be what's going on (and God save us if that's what someone ordered the school to do). But an alternating scheme like that would remain so messed up that it's scarcely redemptive . . . the problem in my view is divvying up the offices based on race, not simply the fact that (this year) the whites are scheduled to pull ahead.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:56 PM on August 26, 2010


I can kind of understand the mindset of "Well, we're trying to be fair, to make sure that both black and white kids are represented, because if they weren't people would be fricking pissed, and we'd like to avoid that."

But here are my questions:

1. Why are 3/4 of the officer positions in grades 6 and 7 for white kids, but 2/4 of the grade 8 positions for white kids?

2. Are there literally NO kids in Nettleton who identify as neither black nor white? The article mentions a kid who is Italian and Native American, but is there really no one in the town with like two Asian parents? Or two Hispanic parents?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:00 PM on August 26, 2010


What
posted by amro at 9:03 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are 3/4 of the officer positions in grades 6 and 7 for white kids, but 2/4 of the grade 8 positions for white kids?

Based on the published reasoning / justification, my guess is it is quite closely based on the class population.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:03 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


President - Gas
posted by cjorgensen at 9:06 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It'll all be okay, you guys. Glenn Beck has a dream.
posted by felix betachat at 9:08 PM on August 26, 2010 [20 favorites]


if i paint my kids face white, can he\she be president
AND MAINTAIN A 'B' AVERAGE.
posted by clavdivs at 9:08 PM on August 26, 2010


1. Why are 3/4 of the officer positions in grades 6 and 7 for white kids, but 2/4 of the grade 8 positions for white kids?

Probably down to proportionality and historical patterns. I.e., maybe last year the positions were reversed in race.

2. Are there literally NO kids in Nettleton who identify as neither black nor white? The article mentions a kid who is Italian and Native American, but is there really no one in the town with like two Asian parents? Or two Hispanic parents?

Probably not. Where I went to high school, Hispanics and Asians were "White." Italians were "Black." Make of that what you will.
posted by Electrius at 9:13 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


always they screw around the Irish
posted by clavdivs at 9:13 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are no words. There are just no fucking words.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:14 PM on August 26, 2010


What? That was my first reaction. Throw away's comment above pointing out the context provided in the article's comments is pretty much spot on. but I don't think you have to live in a historically racist state or country to understand how this stuff works, and it's precisely the resistance to changes for the better in places like Mississippi, or even the broader United States that people like Rand Paul don't take into account when they make their "principled" stands defending culturally promoted racism. So in summary, Google "fuck Rand Paul".
posted by IvoShandor at 9:15 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Down here where I live, they don't use the term African-American, or even black. They use the word nigger. And they use it freely, without embarrassment. We have a nigger President, as far as they are concerned. They go along with what they were taught by their parents and they teach their children the same way. I'm not even joking. It's like a whole different world down here. When I was growing up I was more likely to get punished for using the word nigger than I was for saying fuck. In our family, that word was not allowed, nor was the sentiment behind it. I was fortuate to have intelligent parents. Although we moved around a lot, I happened to be living in south GA when I was in the 8th and 9th grades in 1968 and 1969. There was still separate seating at the movies. There were separate homecoming dances. Separate swimming pools. When the first black girl managed to make the cheerleading squad, numerous southern mothers declared that their daughters would not be riding in a bus or car with a nigger. I'll never forget it. This does not surprise me.
posted by wv kay in ga at 9:16 PM on August 26, 2010 [24 favorites]


Anyone who thought irony died in 9/11, you called it 9 years early.
posted by doublehappy at 9:20 PM on August 26, 2010


This is the state that brings us segregated proms people. Even after Morgan Freeman paid for a mixed prom, white parents sponsored their own white only prom.

When I first read about this I got the impression that this was some new policy. Unfortunately, it's just more of the same.
posted by fontophilic at 9:27 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]




In my lifetime, the least educated, least qualified, least rational people at any school have been within the administration. I apologize to anyone who works in school administration - I've also known some brilliant and wonderful people in those positions. But if you want to find the dumbest adult in a school, go into the front office.

Teachers aren't always geniuses, of course, but they are people who go to college to learn as much as they can so as to dedicate their lives to helping children learn things, and for very low pay. Administrators are generally office-workers with one of the lowest-paying office jobs in the country, dealing with putting out fires all the time, involving kids who they don't know personally and who cycle in and out in a haze. And principles are more about politics than education (again, in a very, very broad sense.)

So right now I'm feeling for the teachers at that school, who are probably some of the greater minds at work in Mississippi, and who know these kids personally, and who are being stuck with a policy dictated by clearly ignorant administrators, who looked at the racial division problem in their school as a "court-ordered" issue, and chose the dumbest possible way in which to address it.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:37 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Go by the mother's race...."

Really, I'm surprised they didn't just go with the ol' One-Drop Rule. I bet they think they're terribly progressive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:46 PM on August 26, 2010


My assumption for the rationale would be that there are more of one race than the other at the school and that the kids tend to vote along racial lines. As such, they might always have an all-white or all-black student government. Perhaps this is an attempt to make sure that the student government is comprised of white and black students.
posted by flarbuse at 9:52 PM on August 26, 2010


They left out:
Principal's Slip : Pink
posted by w0mbat at 9:59 PM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is virtually no level of trust between whites and African Americans. People grow up with segregation in every part of their lives.

It probably doesn't help that the schools are teaching them the importance of segregation and racial identification at an early age. One would think the role of the educator would be to, well, educate.
posted by mek at 10:08 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


This post combined with the "dumb things Americans believe" make umping naked into a hay baler seem like a pretty sane thing to do.
posted by maxwelton at 10:09 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of. Enough already. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me your entire history, it's time for us to go our separate ways.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:22 PM on August 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is, this, okay. There are way too many layers of crap here, way too many. The middle school administrators are black woman, white man, black woman, white man (all of the other schools are run by white men). To me it's like they're making a mockery of diversity. Maybe somebody called foul because whites were the only ones getting nominated/elected to positions, so they implemented this segregated system. They have a regular band and a white band. A regular prom and a white prom. How bad must things be that this is the best they could bother to do? Although even in this cynical system whites are the only presidents.

And there are students of other races there, at least a few. As is typical in American race relations, they might as well not exist, or they are "white" (for purposes of screwing over the blacks only).

I can't even start with the whole "fathers aren't there so they don't count". Really? I mean, where do you start? The horrible, racist assumption? The fact that even if the dad isn't currently living with mom, that doesn't mean the kid wouldn't know enough about him to identify with his culture? The..I just, no.

My god I have so much to say but I should calm down first.

On preview:

My assumption for the rationale would be that there are more of one race than the other at the school and that the kids tend to vote along racial lines. As such, they might always have an all-white or all-black student government.

I am sure that is the "rationale". I can guarantee you that this school has never had an all-black student government. I also strongly do not believe that this is just coming from the students and the school is trying to accommodate the all-powerful student body. Crap flows downhill. I still note that the president cannot be black, for some reason. If it was just about proportion (which still wouldn't erase the racism), someone somewhere in that administration would have noticed that.
posted by Danila at 10:31 PM on August 26, 2010


And principles are more about politics than education (again, in a very, very broad sense.)

If by "very, very broad sense" you mean false, sure. You can't just sling some group insults and exculpate yourself with apologies to or exceptions for "the good ones" of whatever class you're insulting.

You're making a facile, empirical claim that administrators (which means what, secretaries? Curricula committees? The payroll department? Vice principals?) are the dumbest people in the school based on the non-representative sample of your individual experience; worse yet, it isn't even relevant to the story because:

The policy is put in place by the elected school board, not the front office of the school.

It's as easy to blame some nebulous class of administrators for the problems of the public school system in the U.S. as it is to blame teachers unions, lack of parental involvement, twitter, television, sagging jeans, or any other scapegoat, and about as true.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:33 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was there ever a high school student government in recent times that was not a failed democracy?
posted by polymodus at 10:37 PM on August 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having said that, yes, this is racist as fuck, and entirely consistent with my youth in the Deep South, where children of upstanding white community members mounted a campaign against the black prom queen candidate on the grounds that she was black, and where we had a mostly white cheerleading squad and an all black dance team. It was about allowing white folks to put their kids into a mostly or entirely white school within a school, such that they see nonwhite kids but never interact as equal participants in the same social space.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:47 PM on August 26, 2010


Where I went to high school, Hispanics and Asians were "White." Italians were "Black." Make of that what you will.

You went to high school in Peru?
posted by aaronetc at 10:54 PM on August 26, 2010


Q: What's black and white and totally over?

A: Ah, screw it, the jokes write themselves.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:56 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh well I should say one other thing. There is a lot of racism in the Northern and Western parts of the United States. A lot. There's the nasty kind - I've had eggs thrown at me, pots and pans, bananas, all in this here city of brotherly love. There's the subtle kinds. The aversive kinds. The institutional kinds (just ask the families of Amadou Diallo or Oscar Grant). And I don't think it's irrelevant to bring it up, because one of the reasons racism festers in America is the notion that it is primarily a Southern problem. Detroit and Boston and Chicago - none of them responded too well to desegregation and they are still highly segregated. Seattle, Portland, the liberal utopias, the sundown towns.

At the same time, racism in the South does have its own peculiar stench. I'll feel comfortable when I go to the South, and then I'll meet a friendly lady with a black cat named "nigger". And it's like "hmm". Now it's pretty common for black southerners to come up north and say they prefer the racism of the south because at least it's overt. But you know, what does it do to a person, what does it do over the course of a life if you went to a school like this, or Nathan Bedford Forrest High in Florida, and there's just all these reminders everywhere that you aren't really wanted and your perspective means less than dirt? What kind of number does it do? I mean, you have to find a way to get along, to survive, and hopefully to thrive to a certain extent.

And dear God what about the (white) children? I'm serious. It's not just the souls of black folks that are savagely damaged by this environment.
posted by Danila at 10:56 PM on August 26, 2010 [45 favorites]


Marty Marx, thanks for the correction. Dear christ school boards. I'd write another screed now if you hadn't just correctly pointed out how stupid that is of me to denigrate classes of people with whom I have no personal experience.

FWIW, I'll answer the other part of your question, though.

Vice Principals deserve their own special day. They have a thankless job which (again in my experience) puts them closer to the individual students - and the "problem students" especially - and the one's I've known have done it marvelously. In my time, at least, Vice Principal meant "chief disciplinarian." Who the hell wants that job? Who masters in education in order to work around kids all day with the full knowledge that the kids - almost all of the kids - hate and fear them? But my experience with them first-hand, the few times I had to deal with discipline, was tough, fair, and caring. None of them ever tried to make me like them, but they tried to make me understand my own actions and the effects that they had on the other students. God Bless Vice Principals.

Principals themselves, however, are a mixed bag at best. I've known some fantastic ones, who understand their position to be one of an enormous public trust, stick to their guns on tough decisions, and live for the kids in their schools. I've known even more, however, who treat the position smugly, as a reward for the politicking that got them there, and who view the running of the school as the same thing as protecting their own reputation. It isn't, and fuck them.

Counselors are a different kind of mixed bag. All have good intentions, to be sure, but the competence level, and the degree to which they actually can communicate with the students, varies wildly. Not to mention those with personal agendas. A school counselor can be either the best or worst thing in a student's academic career, though thankfully I dealt mostly with good ones.

What I was discussing, however, or trying to, was that school administration positions, no matter how many good people are within them, will also include the worst people at a school, seemingly invariably. Committee thinking has tons to do with this, but that only amplifies the problem of the small-minded being in the higher-up positions. Perhaps the biggest issue is that, particularly in the case of bad principals (which in my experience is most of them) while the teachers know and love the kids, the administration fears them. And their parents. WHIle not knowing them at all.

A lot of that is systematic failure, but it is there.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:09 PM on August 26, 2010


Also, I'm happy to "blame" lack of parental involvement for a lot of things, though I still understand the circumstances which make it unfeasible or impossible in many cases.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:13 PM on August 26, 2010


To make (something) better, it appears "White Band" is just what they call their "intermediate" middle school band -- as opposed to Red Band and Blue Band.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 11:22 PM on August 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Down here where I live, they don't use the term African-American, or even black. They use the word nigger. And they use it freely, without embarrassment. We have a nigger President, as far as they are concerned. They go along with what they were taught by their parents and they teach their children the same way. I'm not even joking.

Was in a tire repair shop a few days ago, in Los Angeles. A few other folks were there. When the phone rang, one (white, natch) guy who didn't work there got up and answered it, basically behaving like a jackass, then putting the person on hold and yelling "call on line one!" into the service bay where the employees were.

Several minutes later, in his conversation with the woman he was with, he opined apropos of nothing that it is ridiculous how we can't use the "good words" any more; that "you can't use those good little words, like nigger...or nappy...they've taken 'em away. It's a shame."

I went outside to avoid punching him in the face, but I just thought you'd like to know that no place in America seems to be immune to the likes of that sort of thing.
posted by davejay at 12:35 AM on August 27, 2010


We need to spend more time on building bridges between adults. We need workplace programs that let folks do more than just have a 1 day non-discrimination training.
posted by humanfont at 1:39 AM on August 27, 2010


We got redlined when looking for houses in Boston. Everywhere the sickness is the same; it's only the symptoms that are different.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:43 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


electrius: Where I went to high school, Hispanics and Asians were "White." Italians were "Black." Make of that what you will.

aaronetc: You went to high school in Peru?



From George De Stefano's "An Offer We Can't Refuse" (good book btw): "The 1922 trial of an Alabama black man accused of miscengenation provides a vivid example of the in-betweeness of Southern Italian immigrants in the eyes of white America. Jim Rollins, the black man in question, had been convicted of the crime of miscengenation, but his conviction was overturned by an appeals court on the grounds that the prosecution could not conclusively prove that Edith LaBue, the woman in question, was indeed white. LaBue was a Sicilian immigrant, and her ethnicity, the court held, meant that she might be a "Negro or a descendant of a Negro". Although the court did not definitively state that Sicilians were nonwhite, the ruling "also made clear that she [LaBue] was not the sort of white woman whose purity was to be 'protected' by that bulwark of white supremacism, the miscengenation statute."

It's easy to score snark points. More difficult is to know what the hell you're talking about. The idea presented by electrius is not a new one and I suspect it goes on still today.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:12 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


They told me that they "Go by the mother's race b/c with minorities the father isn't generally in the home." They also told me that "a city court order is the reason why it is this way."

What if the mother is mixed-race too? HEAD ASPLODE.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:57 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stuff like this is why education, as a career, was off the table for me from the first time I seriously thought about a career. Sure, teaching is fun, but I did not (and do not) ever want to have to deal with insane school policy after escaping life as a public school student. Dealing with it as an adult who expected respect, dignity, and some degree of control over my world would have been impossible.

That said, I feel some empathy for these folks. What should they do to avoid all-white class officers year after year? How do they avoid fights in the halls between the major racial groups in the school? I mean, I can think of some vague "awareness-raising" campaigns, but these pressured, distracted people want a step-by-step guaranteed instant process. Implementing rules is pretty much their main strategy for change. Let's assume they're not evil or exceptionally slow -- still, how do you tell them to do their jobs differently? Pretend they're all sitting at home, yelling at their computer screens, "Well, what should we do? What, in practical terms, can we really do?" Y'all are well-read enough to know some of the challenges they face. What book could you recommend?
posted by amtho at 4:26 AM on August 27, 2010


I went to school in the next town over from Nettleton, so this news is disappointing but not at all shocking.

Before segregation, my town had a few white elementary schools, one black elementary school, two white junior high schools, one black high school (7-12), and one white high school. Post-segregation, no parent of any race was willing to have their child go outside of those established schools, so the school board decided the following: all the white elementary schools would be K-5, then all the sixth graders went to the former black elementary school, then 7-8 graders were split between the two former white junior high schools. All ninth graders went to the former black high school, then everyone went to the one main high school in town. This is how it was all the way up through the mid-90s. I never realized that other parts of the country didn't organize their school districts this way until about a year before I went to college.

When I was attending 9th grade at the former black high school, we had student council elections. One of my dear friends was named Charles, and Charles was easily one of the most popular and well-respected kids at the school. He was crazy smart, musically gifted, and moved easily among most of the balkanized social groups of middle school.

Anyway, student council. Charles was a shoe-in, obviously. But during his campaign, Charles found out that the school mandated that at least one member of the council must be African American, something few, if any, of us knew. Charles was the only person of color running.

And so the day of the campaign speeches, Charles gets up there and instead of giving the expected address filled with the usual goofy campaign promises of longer free periods and pizza parties every Friday, in front of all his classmates and the teachers and administrators and everything, Charles gave a searing speech condemning the fact that, as the only black kid running, he would get elected even if he got just or vote. He spoke eloquently about refusing to be used to fill a quota, and concluded his speech by formally withdrawing from the race.

It made a huge, huge impression on every kid in that auditorium. This was nearly 20 years ago; it's depressing to think he'd have to make the same speech today.
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:34 AM on August 27, 2010 [51 favorites]


The idea presented by electrius is not a new one and I suspect it goes on still today.

Yeah, I've had similar bullshit "explained" to me about Jews and their alleged checkered racial heritage. It is doubly amusing coming from people who firmly believe that Jesus was a blond haired blue eyed white man from Oxford.
posted by elizardbits at 4:50 AM on August 27, 2010


Jesus was a blond haired blue eyed white man from Oxford.

So Jesus is Thom Yorke. Makes sense.
posted by kersplunk at 5:17 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


As an aside, Radio 4 had a bit of Emo Phillips on last night.

"I come from the South of America. I like it down there. Of course, I'm prejudiced..."

posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:28 AM on August 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yoknapatawpha county.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:40 AM on August 27, 2010


Danila: There's the nasty kind - I've had eggs thrown at me, pots and pans, bananas, all in this here city of brotherly love.

Honestly, you have *got* to stop going to Eagles games.

As to your broader point, I agree: I've always been reluctant to accept the argument that southern racism is to be preferred because it's overt. And that's not just because overt racism is scarring to its victims, and to its beneficiaries; it's because permitting a prejudiced and racialized public discourse signals its acceptability and promises its persistence. It may be that the same amount of racism would exist in a particular clime regardless of what's said, or done by public authorities, but I seriously doubt the results remain the same across generations. Marginal improvements ain't chopped liver.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:17 AM on August 27, 2010


> Um, can someone please explain to me again why we didn't just let the South go?

"We"? You are part of the problem. Stop thinking like that.
posted by languagehat at 6:22 AM on August 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


I would have expected more considered responses by MeFites, especially by those rightly criticizing the continuing segregation in the south.

The Smoking Gun notes that the class population is over 70% white, and many of the commenters above talk about continuing, overt racism in the south. So practically speaking, a black candidate that is equally or better qualified to a white candidate will have a well lower chance of being elected to a position, solely by virtue of his or her race. shiu mai baby's friend Charles - the universally liked shoo-in candidate who can command the white students' vote in southern Mississippi - is almost certainly the exception to the rule. Without some kind of plan like this, the student council would likely be one more segregated extra-curricular, like the dance/cheer teams or the proms or the bands that commenters above have railed against. How is that fair to the black student population?

There is nothing that has shown that the President will always be a white student; if that were the case, that's obviously terrible. But more likely, it will alternate year over year.

The choice appears to be between (1) a probably all-white student council and (2) a diverse student council elected through this method. The choice of (3) "vote for everyone based on their merit alone, without regard to their race" is almost certainly a false one. Wasn't this the school board's attempt to provide a more fair opportunity for black students to be represented on student government? For those that condemned the plan above, what would you do instead? If the answer is "get rid of this," would an all-white student council be better?
posted by AgentRocket at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh well I should say one other thing. There is a lot of racism in the Northern and Western parts of the United States

As a child of the 60's I can tell you that black people were more of a symbol than a reality to me; the number of black students I went to school with or met at Girl Scout camp was a tiny handful. I was raised to be respectful and not judge people by the color of their skin, but as I've said it was all symbolic because I didn't know any black people until college.

On the other hand, here in NC, people of different skin color live cheek by jowl-- at least at the blue collar level. In the house I am sitting in, my neighbors across the street are white, next door are black. This roughly 50/50 split holds true for my gym, my grocery store, the shopping malls, and my husband's work environment. There is a lot more integration here than in other parts of the US. It may have been forced at one time, but it seems pretty natural now. The only place I see one race predominate is in the churches. There are 5 churches within a few blocks of my home and they all have strictly black or strictly white congregations.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:31 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, what AgentRocket said. What would people suggest, assuming (as is likely the case) that the alternative of straight-up "democracy" would produce an all-white student council? Outrage is easy, solutions are hard. There's a reason Iraq and Lebanon, for example, use systems like this.
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on August 27, 2010


AgentRocket, there are lots of other choices for how to run an election, though they regrettably involve more complicated voting schemes (though there are simpler ones, like having the second place candidate get the second-highest position, that might help). Lots on Wikipedia about them, and not all require a white candidacy, etc. There is also an appointment process. I think it's desirable to avoid communicating the sense that one elects someone of a particular race only when compelled to do so.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:34 AM on August 27, 2010


I should add that I take seriously the claim that this is the only way to run this railroad. But its defenders should pause over the incompetence of a school system which -- if this is the case -- is so ill prepared to defend its implementation of the system that it withdraws the proposal when it sees daylight. It's really hard to avoid the conclusion that they're messed up.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:39 AM on August 27, 2010


I agree, AgentRocket, which is why Charles's choice resonates with me all these years later, even though I don't think he fully understood the nuances behind the quota he decried. On one hand, I did and still do applaud him for refusing to be selected for the color of his skin before his ability to lead. It was a ballsy move, and it definitely made a whole bunch of complacent ninth graders think about the world in which they lived, one where everyone accepted the fact that we'd have a white prom and a black prom, a white homecoming queen and a black homecoming queen, and a guarantee that at least 20% of the student council would be black because that's just the way it's always been done.

On the other hand, I don't know if Charles realized what tremendous privilege enabled him to make that speech in the first place. He was unique in that he was well-liked by kids of all ethnicities. To me there's no greater evidence of this privilege than the fact that he was the only black kid running for office. I can't speak to the motivations and forces that kept any other African American kids from giving it a try, but it's hard not to think that the fact that the student body was 35% black vs. 65% white had to have played at least a part in the decision.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:39 AM on August 27, 2010


Coming in late, but I see this media statement from school superintendent: http://www.nettletonschools.com/programs.cfm?subpage=362714

Sometimes I hate being a Mississippi resident - this is one of those times.
posted by fijiwriter at 6:44 AM on August 27, 2010


...media statement from school superintendent:
"Student elections have not yet been held at Nettleton Middle School for the2010-2011 school term. The processes and procedures for student electionsare under review. We are reviewing the origin of these processes,historical applications, compliance issues, as well as current implicationsand ramifications. A statement will be released when review of these processes is complete."

Thank You
Superintendent
Russell Taylor
posted by ericb at 6:50 AM on August 27, 2010


Sorry to post so much on this topic, but one more thing. For those invoking other examples of how this kind of scheme is employed, please bear in mind that this is middle school. Perhaps there's something to be said for enabling success at an earlier age, but I think there's something much more powerful to be said against indoctrinating prejudice.

To wit: I read the link to the media statement, noticed on the left margin the slogan "Capturing Kid's Hearts," and cringed.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:51 AM on August 27, 2010


The Smoking Gun notes that the class population is over 70%...

Yeah. More details on the school and town:
"The Nettleton middle school has about 400 students, and about 72 percent are white, according to a source familiar with the school board's operation. The majority of the remaining students are black.

The city of Nettleton has a population of 2013 and is located 15 miles south of Tupelo, the birthplace of Elvis Presley."
posted by ericb at 6:53 AM on August 27, 2010


Um, can someone please explain to me again why we didn't just let the South go?
I'm not in Austin or N.O. but at least my neighborhood keeps electing this man so there's hope.
As a native Southerner I am really conflicted about the idea that racism is worse or more common in the South. On one hand, many of the things I heard in my childhood from adults around me were chilling. Frequent uses of the "n" word, being told "they" were different and we just shouldn't socialize together because that wasn't natural. My mom worked for the Fed in a mixed race environment and she would mention that she would sometimes go to lunch with coworkers and they would get stares (worse when she went out alone with OMG an African American man).

OTOH, one day in college a friend from New England came up to me after some experience (I forget it, but it was minor, like maybe somebody cut her off in the cafeteria line) and she said to me, "I totally understand why Southerners hat n*****s now!" I was flabbergasted.
posted by pointystick at 7:00 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, here in NC, people of different skin color live cheek by jowl-- at least at the blue collar level. In the house I am sitting in, my neighbors across the street are white, next door are black. This roughly 50/50 split holds true for my gym, my grocery store, the shopping malls, and my husband's work environment. There is a lot more integration here than in other parts of the US. It may have been forced at one time, but it seems pretty natural now. The only place I see one race predominate is in the churches. There are 5 churches within a few blocks of my home and they all have strictly black or strictly white congregations.

This is absolutely true. My neighborhood(again, in NC) is the same as Secret Life of Gravy's, and the gym, grocery, mall etc are the same as well.

In my case my megachurch is multiracial, congregation AND pastors/ leaders included. This is more or less common with the nondenominational churches in the area. OTOH, the Baptist churches still split pretty much on racial lines, as well as the other more traditional denominational congregations.

Now, if you go into some of the more rural areas, racism is alive and well, tho to what extent I'm not sure. The times I have gone down to Alabama, the racial atmosphere freaks me the heck out. It's that noticeable. I have told my daughter to keep my biracial children out of the Deep South because I frankly still fear for their safety there. Up here, not a care in the world.

Honestly I really do not know what you could do to fix the deep South. The racism is so heavily entwined into the traditional mindset-and part of it is a very real very deep fear that to associate with "other" is to transgress a deep social taboo. I feel like a lot of white people would be a lot less racist if they weren't so deeply afraid of what their white acquaintances would think of them. Yeah, that's chickencrap, but it is what it is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:13 AM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


*grandchildren*
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:15 AM on August 27, 2010


"Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of"

Forgive me if this is obvious, but didn't they already try that? And didn't we spend a lot of time, money, and lives making sure they didn't? Seems like a really wasteful thing to just throw away that effort simply because there are still some problems there.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:22 AM on August 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


As a native Southerner I am really conflicted about the idea that racism is worse or more common in the South.

This. I too am a native Southerner and while, yes, there is racism in the south and, yes, in the past it's taken a much more overt and invidious form (lynchings, anyone?) than in other parts of the country, I've also seen and heard some of the most hideous racial stereotyping in grocery stores and gas stations and malls in New York City and Chicago. So this isn't just about the South, though the South has a harder history to overcome.

All that just to say, it really ticks me off when people say things like "why didn't we just let the South go?".
posted by devinemissk at 7:23 AM on August 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, overheard on a commuter train: Woman from the south (coastal NC, specifically) talking to another passenger - "And your blacks are so nice and polite up here! Back home all of ours are rude and downright SURLY. Oh well, I guess it's our fault, after all we did make 'em that way! Tee-hee!"

Having just moved north from coastal NC, I had a hard time not whipping around and asking the woman why exactly she didn't understand what was wrong with the words coming out of her mouth. "Your blacks" really grated on me - the same way one would say "your car" or "your dog" - there was still this underlying tone of implied ownership that just made me want to scream at her.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:30 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a helpful reminder that racism is often overtly constructed as a desire to "help both races" by keeping their apparatus separate. Covertly, of course, it's an expression of the desire of whites to hog the institutions they built on the backs of the free exploitation of other races.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:50 AM on August 27, 2010


I can easily see how an abomination like this gets implemented, with some knowledge of how school boards in red states work (well, school boards in KS, where I could see this being proposed, but I doubt it would pass). I'd imagine before this was implemented, the students ended up electing a fairly homogeneous government. After complaints, someone thinks it would be a brilliant idea to designate which spots whites could hold, and which they couldn't. Ta-da! We're an equal-opportunity school!

Unfortunately, simply designating which spots can be held by which races reeks of racism and is no more than a pathetic cover-up to the real issue, which is not encouraging equality among races and respect for people different than yourself.
posted by good day merlock at 8:07 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am waiting for Glenn Beck or someone to read this story and say 'See the liberals are upset about this but this is exactly what affirmative action is!'
posted by shakespeherian at 8:12 AM on August 27, 2010


First of all it's ridiculous to generalize from a single school district in Mississippi to all schools everywhere, as some people seem to be doing "This is why I'm not in education", etc.

Also, while there may be some racists in the north, the idea that "the north" and "the south" are somehow equivalent because the racism in the north is just 'hidden' is just ridiculous. Obviously in any large group of people there is going to be people with all different types of viewpoints. But the idea that the two are equivalent is just absurd.
posted by delmoi at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now, if you go into some of the more rural areas, racism is alive and well, tho to what extent I'm not sure. The times I have gone down to Alabama, the racial atmosphere freaks me the heck out. It's that noticeable. I have told my daughter to keep my biracial children out of the Deep South because I frankly still fear for their safety there. Up here, not a care in the world.

St. Alia, which Alabama are you talking about? The one I live in has a 65% african-american capitol city, numerous african-american elected officials (Artur Davis had a serious run at the governor's office until a) he voted against the healthcare plan and b) many of said african-american politicians crossed him up), schools and neighborhoods which seem to me to be as integrated as anywhere (and I travel a fair amount), and no one seems to have tried to murder the biracial children at my church lately.

I live in a upper-middle-class, majority white city of about 30K, by the way, so I don't think I'm living in any pocket of hippy-dom.

TL;DR If you haven't been back in 30 years, give it a try.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally? I think this highlights the weakness of our type of government. We have invested a lot in the PRESIDENT being supreme/at the apex. What if we started devaluing the administrator aspect of governments? I think it is possible that if we elected a representative body proportional to population there still would be complaints but not as many. The administrator role would rotate between the top vote getters of each representative bloc.

I get, and understand that many people fundamentally want a color blind electoral system. And I think that is something worth striving for. However, I don't think we are going to achieve such a thing unless there is a rough parity in population numbers between major ethnicities.

Democracy has some serious flaws, one of which is how it deals with minority populations. Ideally you have an overriding document (the Constitution) that details equitable treatment, but even that becomes contentious and not uniformly applied when there are members of society the majority dislikes for some random reason (see the current SSM debate).
posted by edgeways at 9:09 AM on August 27, 2010


...can they just... not, you know. Screw with kids' minds this way? I remember middle school being (what I haven't buried under years of repression) a seething stew of hormones, puberty, petty infighting among cliques and ridiculous popularity contests - middle school's already pretty crap; why make it worse?
posted by zennish at 9:13 AM on August 27, 2010


I'm also having a hard time buying the argument that "southern racism" is better than "northern racism". At least white liberals in the north feel shame and guilt about racism or race fear and will try their hardest to suppress it from their sub conscience.

Heck, even racist conservatives will try their hardest to hide their race-based motives by fabricating crazy tales. "Oh it's not about Muslims, it's about respect for the area. If they moved it 5 blocks we'd be welcoming them with fruit baskets, honest. Too bad they can't be reasonable." "It's not that we don't think mixed race people are real Americans, it's just we really want to see Obama's birth certificate. It's not such a hard request is it?"

The real problems is when liberals try to engage these arguments on the false pretenses that conservatives established, because they're also going to try their damnedest to avoid talking about race. This leads to the shameful comments from Howard Dean regarding the Cordoba House, or Biden's "he's so clean and articulate (and black!)".

If anyone tries to frame this conversation around its real foundation, race fear, they're muck rakers, or inflammatory, or "How dare you call me racist, my bodyguard is black!" The real work that needs to be done is public discussions of race. I will admit that my first snark instinct was to shout "NUKE IT FROM ORBIT", but I try not to give into that snark voice.
posted by fontophilic at 9:15 AM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]



This is the funniest shit I have read today.


Funny isn't the first word that comes to my mind.
posted by Pax at 9:22 AM on August 27, 2010


"Teachers aren't always geniuses, of course, but they are people who go to college to learn as much as they can so as to dedicate their lives to helping children learn things, and for very low pay. Administrators are generally office-workers"

Okay, first, in most states, administrators have to work as a teacher for a certain number of years (often five) before they're accepted into the programs to earn their administrative certifications. For some administrative positions, they MUST have masters or doctoral degrees.

Second, I'm ON a school board in an urban district. I ran BECAUSE I'm a parent (well, at the time I ran, I was a very pregnant proto-parent). Other members of our school board have children or grandchildren in the schools, or worked for the schools. Of the seven members of our Board, only one does not currently have a family or professional connection to the schools, and she is a minister in the poorest part of the city. It doesn't make us geniuses and it doesn't make us right in our decisions, but we're deeply connected TO THE STUDENTS and the families in the district. That's the POINT of a school board -- community oversight.

"the administration fears them. And their parents. WHIle not knowing them at all."

Our administrators ARE parents. Of students. Who have playdates. Our superintendent's daughter attends our district and the super goes to parent-teacher night like everyone else. Our superintendent's secretary's kids are also in the district; she often gives us a heads up if something weird is going on. Many administrators are older and no longer have kids in school, simply because it takes a lot of years to climb the ladder, but many of our administrators have or had kids in the district. The principal of our largest high school lives about three houses down from me (in not just our district but his high school's cachement area). Their property values, and mine, are affected by the quality of the schools. Their children's education, and mine, are affected by the quality of the schools.

The quantity of external constraints school districts operate under is mind-blowing. We have, just as an example, six single-spaced pages of unfunded mandates just from the state. We are required by law to comply with all of them. There is no funding to do so. We have unfunded federal mandates. We have new mandates all the time that require new administrators, which, since these mandates aren't funded, come at the expense of teachers. (The feds gave us a new school lunch compliance routine that requires a whole person -- we outsource it -- and the state this year gave us a new FOIA compliance routine that requires a specially-designated employee, who for us must be 1/2 time. Larger districts will require a full-time person. It's a great law, makes us much more accessible to the public, but it's expensive to comply with. We have three entire people who do nothing but comply with state and federal testing requirements. Etc.)

Anyway, on the topic of the article. This is dumbassery to the highest degree. However, the court orders school districts may have upon them can be deeply bizarre. We are not a much-ordered district and were never placed under a federal desegregation order. However, we are limited in redistricting because we have court-ordered "enclaves" -- little 16-block areas that are sent to high schools on the opposite side of town that date from the late 1960s and have never been repealed. Some of them mostly aren't even residential any more, but they can't be removed. Our electoral districts for the school board (and, yes, as ordered by the federal courts, we elect by district, not by whole community, as is more common) are fairly gerrymandered, also by court order. Of course since then the racial makeup of the city has shifted considerably but the gerrymandered districts remain as they were back then. And changing them is very difficult, even when there's no purpose to them anymore. (And I don't mean "no purpose" as in "we've solved racism!" but "no purpose" as in "that 16 blocks that used to be houses is now all commercial buildings and nobody lives there.")

On yet another topic, I went to grad school in the South, holding the stereotype that the South was "more racist" than my home of the Midwest. And I think, institutionally, that was probably broadly true. However, I found that people spoke much more openly and frankly about race and racism in the South, in a way that I found refreshing. I was surprised how aware of the problem people were and how willing to talk about it; in the Midwest there seemed to be more of an attitude of, "We're very fair-minded people (generally true) who abhor racism (often true), so nobody suffers from racism or its lingering effects anymore (clearly untrue), or if they do it's obviously unintentional and nobody's FAULT (frequently untrue), so let's just not talk about it." It was nice, in the South, to see people so willing to face the issues of racism head-on and actually talk about them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:26 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Davenhill: But otherwise? If they want to be a nation whose entire economy is based on selling guns, bibles, and fried food... just let them go.

devinemissk: All that just to say, it really ticks me off when people say things like "why didn't we just let the South go?"

Yeah, this pisses me off too. I moved to the South from Northern California 2 years ago. Not too long after the move, I was talking to one of my friends, not an unintelligent person, whose reaction to my move was how "horrified" he was when he'd visited the city I moved to because "they have a church on every corner and eat fried food."

Saying stuff like that always betrays a kneejerk blindness not only to the reality of the South, but to the reality of the non-South: the racism and xenophobia may take different forms, it may be more insidious or covert, but there is nasty, deep, hellish stuff welling out of the ground in places that are not full of guns, bibles, and/or fried food (not that the South is only any or all of these things).

delmoi: Also, while there may be some racists in the north, the idea that "the north" and "the south" are somehow equivalent because the racism in the north is just 'hidden' is just ridiculous. Obviously in any large group of people there is going to be people with all different types of viewpoints. But the idea that the two are equivalent is just absurd.

What's your point? I don't see anyone arguing an equivalence. To say "while there are some racists in the north" is kind of absurd too. There are some racists everywhere, all over the land.

fontophilic: At least white liberals in the north feel shame and guilt about racism or race fear and will try their hardest to suppress it from their sub conscience.

Assuming that you're correct, which I don't think is the case ..... that makes it better?
posted by blucevalo at 9:30 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


On yet another topic, I went to grad school in the South, holding the stereotype that the South was "more racist" than my home of the Midwest. And I think, institutionally, that was probably broadly true. However, I found that people spoke much more openly and frankly about race and racism in the South, in a way that I found refreshing. I was surprised how aware of the problem people were and how willing to talk about it; in the Midwest there seemed to be more of an attitude of, "We're very fair-minded people (generally true) who abhor racism (often true), so nobody suffers from racism or its lingering effects anymore (clearly untrue), or if they do it's obviously unintentional and nobody's FAULT (frequently untrue), so let's just not talk about it." It was nice, in the South, to see people so willing to face the issues of racism head-on and actually talk about them.

Yeah, I'm going to totally agree with this characterization.
posted by devinemissk at 9:34 AM on August 27, 2010


AgentRocket: "The choice appears to be between (1) a probably all-white student council and (2) a diverse student council elected through this method. The choice of (3) "vote for everyone based on their merit alone, without regard to their race" is almost certainly a false one. Wasn't this the school board's attempt to provide a more fair opportunity for black students to be represented on student government? For those that condemned the plan above, what would you do instead? If the answer is "get rid of this," would an all-white student council be better?"

Why is the option of voting on merit a false one? I remember 20 years ago debating about whether a black man could be president of the U.S. within my lifetime, and a little over 10 years ago thinking that if one was, it would be a conservative republican (Colin Powell). An yes who is President now?

These people are supposed to be educators. If the problem is really how you frame it, that white students only vote for white candidates, then maybe they should educate those students. Discuss the elections in class, have students submit qualifications that can be debated and decided over, and teach the children how to vote based on merit and shared goals. That is how you solve a problem. As you frame it, these "educators" are only solving a symptom.
posted by I am the Walrus at 9:34 AM on August 27, 2010


I recommend that my northern neighbors read a book called "The Strange Case of Jim Crow" which documents how under reconstruction the south was highly integrated and moving towards a pluralistic society and then reconstruction ended and the southerners copied the Northern White cities implementing segregation on a massive scale. Segregation started as a norhtern practice. Lincoln liberated the slaves, but he wanted to send them back to Africa. Perhaps we need Civil Rights Movement 2.0 to do the hard work of actually returning towards a process of integration rather than increasing our divisions.
posted by humanfont at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2010


That's right, the South was and to some extent is fairly segregated, but it's the north's fault!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:49 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]



I'm sorry, but for me, it's more the "...choose the race of the mother..." comment than the elections stipulations. I'd love to be in that because I would have to be considered "white" by that rule, even though to look at me, you would say "can't we just call you hispanic or something? Oh, and your hair doesn't work. It's black guy color, but we can see you got that Mick fro going, so it's just going to require tons of conditioner and gel."

In regards to the quota election thing, I can promise you it is the same thing as when someone looks at me and says "Hey, so... I was just going to make a comment about black people liking basketball, would you be offended if I did it?" (paraphrased) And then they proceed to word it in the most formal watered down manner possible, removing all humorous quality.

So, the school board/administration are racists who can only admit this to their closest drinking buddies. But, there's this other part of them that likes getting paid too much, so they try to appear tolerant for professional reasons. This is the result. Racism isn't a switch you can turn off or on, and they just found that out. They made a decision to appear contrary to their conscious prejudices, and found it to be a set of stripes you can't paint over with a coat of primer.

Good luck with your press release, shitheads.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:04 AM on August 27, 2010


My high school was like this - we had black/white valedictorians, homecoming court, prom queen, you name it. It went under the guise of "Gifted" and "Regular", since that's how our school was basically divided along racial lines. I think the rationale behind is was that since gifted and regular students had no classes together and basically never interacted, we essentially had two schools on one campus. The gifted students would have always voted for other gifted students, and regular for regular - so whoever had the attendance majority on voting day would win all the slots. It was pretty bizarre having two of everything - I was the "white" May Night maid my senior year and had to explain to my family that came exactly why all the court positions had duplicates.
posted by tryniti at 10:06 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I misunderstood. I actually would have had to register as halfrican if it was the mother. I had it backwards.

Shit, so I wouldn't have been able to win either of the elections? Unless it was a percentage thing. Then I'd be white.

Screw it, it's a stupid damn rule.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:07 AM on August 27, 2010


That said, I feel some empathy for these folks. What should they do to avoid all-white class officers year after year?

Set up a proportional representation system to elect the council and require the teams (not parties) to be integrated. Either have the "teams" govern as a team once elected or raffle off the position of president among members of the team with the most votes.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:18 AM on August 27, 2010


Detroit and Boston and Chicago - none of them responded too well to desegregation and they are still highly segregated. Seattle, Portland, the liberal utopias, the sundown towns.

I grew up in deeply segregated, overflowing with race hatred Hammond, Indiana, just south of Chicago, and saw more- very, very, very significantly more- overt racial violence (black on white, white on black) there than I ever did in the two years I lived in Mobile, Alabama.

Having said that- Portland is not "segregated." It has a small nonwhite population by US (urban) standards, but moving there for college in 1982, I was shocked- and I mean shit myself, bowled over, SHOCKED- to see black kids and white kids playing together. Even though I'd gone to mixed-race schools in Hammond my entire life (my high school was a perfect-on-paper model of racial integration, about one-third each black, white and Hispanic, mostly Mexican), one NEVER saw blacks and whites (Hispanics were, pardon the term, a gray area) actually being friend outside of specific and well-delineated school activities. In Portland I saw these casual interracial interactions all the time. It's one reason I loved, and love, Portland.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:33 AM on August 27, 2010


Set up a proportional representation system to elect the council and require the teams (not parties) to be integrated. Either have the "teams" govern as a team once elected or raffle off the position of president among members of the team with the most votes.

I know of high school student government elections that actually do run on "party tickets." I think that requiring each "team" to either have 2 people of color, or one person of color in either the president or vice president role, may be the best way of doing it. But's it's far, far from perfect and has a lot of inherent problematic issues which have a similarly "racist" outcome. For instance, what about people that aren't either black or white?
posted by jabberjaw at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2010


I've lived in both the north and south. I lived in New Orleans, which has a population that is about 67 percent black. And there's the black politicians and black business owners and whatnot described elsewhere, and we all went to the same bars and ate at the same restaurants and people were, and I assume still are, really decent to each other. Except that the reason the city is so black was because of massive white flight in the 1950s in protest of desegregation. And the further you get away from the city, the more pronounced, and overt, racism gets -- Louisiana produced the wonder that was Johnny Rebel, and his attitudes still have root in rural Louisiana.

But, then, I lived in Omaha for six years, and it's a deeply segregated town, with a majority of its black population living north of downtown, a majority of its Hispanic population living south of downtown, and the whites all fled to suburbs west of downtown (there is no east -- you cross a bridge into Council Bluffs, IA, which is to Omaha as Tijuana is to San Diego.)

The same pattern appears in Minneapolis as well. And you go to rural Minnesota, you start seeing rebel flag everywhere, incomprehensibly, as we're a northern state. Hell, you go further north, you're in Canada. And we're passing English language only ordinances and the like with the same sort of fervor you find in, say, Arizona.

From my experience, you could say that racism has a different character north and south, but I haven't seen any evidence there is less of it based on whether you are north or south of the Mason/Dixon line. If anything, it seems more predominant in rural areas. The fight in this country is not North v. South. It's city v. country.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:45 AM on August 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


blucevalo: Saying stuff like that always betrays a kneejerk blindness not only to the reality of the South, but to the reality of the non-South: the racism and xenophobia may take different forms, it may be more insidious or covert, but there is nasty, deep, hellish stuff welling out of the ground in places that are not full of guns, bibles, and/or fried food (not that the South is only any or all of these things).

Frankly, I'm not sure how you could work all of that into a joke. Or why you'd want to.

A knee-jerk blindness or a knee-jerk hypersensitivity? I lived in the South. I understand that it's unfair to make sweeping generalization about groups of people. That's kind'uv the point. (hint, hint)
posted by Davenhill at 11:05 AM on August 27, 2010


I think that requiring each "team" to either have 2 people of color, or one person of color in either the president or vice president role, may be the best way of doing it. But's it's far, far from perfect and has a lot of inherent problematic issues which have a similarly "racist" outcome. For instance, what about people that aren't either black or white?

Obviously this idea is a work in progress, but one solution might be to take race out of it altogether. Have a campaign enrollment form basically saying "The elected student government must understand and represent the points of view of ALL students. Having the student government include students with a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences is essential to making this possible. Please provide a statement of how Utopia High's diversity is represented by the members of your proposed team." Require this to be approved for a team to run. Not approved, don't run.

This first of all works to encourages that many kinds of diversity are represented, not just race. Second, by making it all or nothing (if your statement's not approved, you don't get to add an X to your ticket; you're just out) students won't be trying to find the bare minumum amount of diversity required. They'll have to overshoot where they think the thresshold is just in case. Third, just making the teams is an exercise in bridging ties across networks that might otherwise be completely separate.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:13 AM on August 27, 2010


I understand that it's unfair to make sweeping generalization about groups of people. That's kind'uv the point. (hint, hint)

If you were just snarking about the Bibles and the airlifts and all that, so be it.

Astro Zombie expressed what I was trying to find a way to say much better anyhow.
posted by blucevalo at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2010


School's Race Rule Prompts Mom to Pull Kids Out (NYT)

More context, more information.
posted by kosem at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2010


> More context, more information.

Thanks for the link; you might have mentioned that they've ended the policy due to the outcry. (Apologies if this has already come out somewhere up there—it's a long thread.)
posted by languagehat at 1:31 PM on August 27, 2010


From the article:

The district scrapped the policy by Friday afternoon.

Superintendent Russell Taylor posted a statement on the school's website, saying the policy had been in place for 30 years, dating back to a time when school districts across Mississippi came under close scrutiny from the U.S. Justice Department over desegregation.

''It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body,'' the statement said. ''It is our hope and desire that these practices and procedures are no longer needed.''
posted by kosem at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2010


(that's all a quote -- I failed to include marks)
posted by kosem at 1:33 PM on August 27, 2010


What's just been said reminded me of a conversation I had with the black guy who lived across the hall from me in college, in regards to something to do with racism and the Mason/Dixon line and clueless people from Chicago/Illinois (which is where he was from and where we were going to school):

Me: Anybody who thinks racism is only a Southern issue hasn't been south of I-80?
Him: Actually, more like south of the Loop.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:34 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


School's Race Rule Prompts Mom to Pull Kids Out (NYT)

NBC News on the reversed policy. [video | 02:12].
posted by ericb at 2:16 PM on August 27, 2010


Superintendent Russell Taylor posted a statement on the school's website...

Superintendent Russell Taylor's full statement:
"After being notified of a grievance regarding upcoming student elections at Nettleton Middle School, research was conducted that evidenced that the current practices and procedures for student elections have existed for over 30 years. It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body. It is felt the intent of these election procedures was to ensure African-American representation in each student office category through an annual rotation basis.


It is our hope and desire that these practices and procedures are no longer needed to help ensure minority representation and involvement. Furthermore, the Nettleton School District acknowledges and embraces the fact that we are growing in ethnic diversity and that the classifications of Caucasian and African-American no longer reflect our entire student body.

Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity. It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office. Future student elections will be monitored to help ensure that this change in process and procedure does not adversely affect minority representation in student elections."
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on August 27, 2010


Kudos on rethinking the policy and retracting it, albeit in the passive voice.

Boo on the school and board for failing to reconsider a thirty year old policy before the shitstorm, and boo on the community for failing to question that policy -- if it was made known to them -- prior to this point.

Prospective kudos on the plan to replace Superintendent Taylor with a Superintendent of a different race, whatever race she or he might be, at the next election, and so on into the future. Until someone files a grievance.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:46 PM on August 27, 2010


Tennessee Bay.
posted by DakotaPaul at 2:48 PM on August 27, 2010


That retraction of the policy is all fine and good, but how the hell did they figure outright prohibiting a black student from being president would "ensure minority representation"?
posted by shiu mai baby at 2:50 PM on August 27, 2010


"Boo on the school and board for failing to reconsider a thirty year old policy before the shitstorm"

Again, not defending the level of stupid here, but -- my district (where I'm a board member) has around 240 separate policies by my quick count in our board policy manual, which is maybe around 400 pages? (Each policy does get its own page; some are quite short.) They address everything from student grade appeals to the paperwork for excused absences for jury duty in our over-18 students to who's in charge of the sprinklers. Some policies are up-to-date and well-written, especially if we use them all the time (student discipline policies); others just SIT there for years on end, sucking, because they're never used, and frequently nobody notices the problem until a parent brings them to us (we have an appeal policy for a specific kind of appeal that was created in the 1970s in response to changes in state law, that was not used EVEN ONCE until it was invoked for the first time this year, when we noticed, um, our policy was a little out of date). Other times it's not entirely clear where a new policy or change to policy should go -- we don't have a separate sexting policy; we added it to the cellphone policy. Now it's also been added to the bullying policy and the technology use policy and the student discipline code in response to some recent high-profile cases. But we could have just as easily been the high-profile case where sexting happened and it was "just" a cell phone policy violation and not even in the study discipline code as a separate thing.

Equally important would be the student handbooks (for 34 schools), the district handbook, the teacher's union contract (plus the five other unions we contract with, though the teacher's union contract, which runs about 150 pages of very small print, is far and away the most important and we refer to it constantly to find out what we can and cannot do), and of course the constantly-changing corpus of state law and court decisions. Fully half a shelf on my bookshelf is dedicated to nothing but the laws, rules, and policies relating to my school board service. (And those are just law summary collections the state board helpfully compiles, not the actual complete set of laws applying to stuff, for which one of course needs a law library or a handy Lexis-Nexis account.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2010


St. Alia, which Alabama are you talking about?

Selma, around 2004. (My son was in school for a year in Marion, Alabama and if you wanted a hotel room you had to go down the road apiece.)

I have no reason to doubt the experience of those who live in larger Southern cities-it probably reflects my own which I described upthread. But rural Southern areas-well, let's just say white privilege is alive and well.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:20 PM on August 27, 2010


Eyebrows McGee: that's very helpful context. I was trying also to blame the community for not questioning the policy and bringing it to someone's attention. I would hope this one would stand out for them and for administrators-- it likely gets used each year, seems to flash "controversial," and should have stuck in someone's craw before now -- but your point is a fair one.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 3:21 PM on August 27, 2010


I understand how policy can become institutionalized and out of date, but this is different. Every year for the last 30 the school staff has drafted a document saying that some positions are for whites and some for blacks. What is sad is that none of them stood up and said "this is fucked and we need to stop it."
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2010


Or what Clyde said
posted by nestor_makhno at 3:27 PM on August 27, 2010


"I would hope this one would stand out for them and for administrators-- it likely gets used each year, seems to flash "controversial," and should have stuck in someone's craw before now"

I would think so, too. It might depend on who handled student elections -- our students handle them at the school level, it's not something we as a board ever deal with, nor central administration. At some of our schools the principal more or less handles student council, but at others it's a random teacher or even a front-office secretary who's been there for 25 years. It's possible nobody was paying attention and whoever was in charge of it was lower-level enough that they didn't feel like they could change it. (I will say, as a result of this, one of the questions I'll be casually asking as I do the grand tour o' high schools this next week as school opens is, "So, how do the kids do student council elections here?" I can't IMAGINE we have anything like this kind of shenanigans going on, but I confess I know only the broadest outlines of how the individual schools handle student council.)

But I agree it's more likely that whoever was in charge of it either thought it was okay, or knew it was wrong but thought they were better off not rocking the boat because they were afraid of the response from someone in power who supported the policy.

But anyway, while the superintendent and board are ultimately responsible for this shit, sometimes it does have to be brought to their attention first. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:40 PM on August 27, 2010


"Obviously this idea is a work in progress, but one solution might be to take race out of it altogether. Have a campaign enrollment form basically saying 'The elected student government must understand and represent the points of view of ALL students. Having the student government include students with a wide variety of backgrounds and life experiences is essential to making this possible. Please provide a statement of how Utopia High's diversity is represented by the members of your proposed team.' Require this to be approved for a team to run. Not approved, don't run.

"This first of all works to encourages that many kinds of diversity are represented, not just race. Second, by making it all or nothing (if your statement's not approved, you don't get to add an X to your ticket; you're just out) students won't be trying to find the bare minumum amount of diversity required. They'll have to overshoot where they think the thresshold is just in case. Third, just making the teams is an exercise in bridging ties across networks that might otherwise be completely separate."



This would be great if as a administrator you wanted to spend half the year judging composition and then justifying your decisions both yes and no to students, parents, media and school boards.
posted by Mitheral at 10:41 PM on August 27, 2010


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