One of Peterson’s first acts as president was to institute a “diversity representative” on the student council board to eliminate tension on campus when talking about race and gender issues. But her diversity initiatives were not widely welcomed; a push for gender neutral bathrooms was particularly controversial. And Peterson herself was viewed with suspicion by a significant number of students, mostly white and male, who opposed her candidacy from the start.
Some even thought the school had rigged the election so that a woman would win; only two women served as student body president before Peterson. “There was outcry for Lawrenceville to release the voting data for her presidency, because popular opinion was that she was not actually elected,” said David, a 2014 graduate. “I’d still like to see those numbers, is all I’m saying.” (The numbers were, in fact, released.)
The backlash to her election led to personal attacks. Shortly after Peterson was elected, an anonymous student sent the dean of students photos of Peterson using marijuana. Soon after, the school received more anonymous information that alleged Peterson had posted racist tweets about a Sikh student. In a school-wide meeting, Peterson apologized for the photos and the dean of students clarified that the racist tweets were fabricated. Still, many students believed she wasn’t right for the position.
“There was too much controversy around Maya,” said Rob, a rising senior. “We didn’t really want a president who breaks school rules. It isn’t a representation of who we are.”
– “What Happens When A Prep School’s Black Student President Mocks Her White Male Classmates” by Katie JM Baker, 6-30-14
Michael Dunn got away with murder.Oh, he’ll likely spend the rest of his life in prison on the three counts of attempted second-degree murder. Those are the charges of which a Jacksonville, Fla., jury took four days to find him guilty, for the 10 bullets he fired at 17-year-old Jordan Davis and his three friends that fateful November more than a year ago because they wouldn’t turn down the “thug music” that he despised.
Dunn’s conviction has given Jordan’s parents, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, a bit of closure to know that their son’s killer won’t walk away free, that while he robbed Jordan of the chance to reach middle age, he also robbed himself of the chance to reach old age in a retirement village instead of a cell block.
But the jury couldn’t decide whether Dunn, 47, was justified in killing Jordan, who argued with him and cursed him when he asked them to turn down the music. Not only could they not decide whether Dunn’s slaying of the unarmed teenager amounted to first-degree murder, but they also couldn’t decide whether it amounted to second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Which leads me to ask: What if Jordan had been the only one in that Dodge Durango?
– Tonyaa Weathersbee, The Root
I walk around in this young Black male body and I understand that it causes fear. It causes a reaction. It causes police to look at me more carefully. It could kill me. This is the burden that I bear just by being born Black and living in America is the fact that I have been born into a racist system, a racist society that has placed on my Black male body a set of ideas that invoke fear in people. That’s what Jordan Davis was dealing with. That’s what Trayvon Martin was dealing with, and it killed them.
– Mychal Denzel Smith, as said on MSNBC, Feb. 16.
By Kendra James
San Diego Comic Con was overwhelming and not for the faint hearted, but also one of the most unique experiences of geekdom I’ve ever had. After taking a week to recover I wanted share a few highs and lows, insights and lessons learned from a first time SDCC attendee.
Rachel Jeantel is a teenager, a 19-year-old girl who told the world what she heard that fateful February night on the phone with her longtime friend Trayvon. From the news reports produced by the mainstream media, you got the impression that Jeantel was genuine and believable. Of course reporters from outlets like the New York Times, Miami Herald and the AP are not going to feel the need to describe Rachel’s attitude or overuse of black English vernacular, but they will feel compelled to describe the effectiveness of her testimony. And I saw them use words like “transfixed” to describe the all-female, nearly all-white jury’s reaction to what Jeantel was saying. Perhaps if the prosecutors had done too much coaching of their star witness, her genuineness would not have shone through.
I also saw incredibly mean things said about her looks on social media, even seeing her described as “Precious”—referring to the movie character brought to life by Gabby Sidibe, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the troubled overweight teen. Disturbingly, this has become the go-to moniker for overweight, dark-skinned girls—aided by rapper Kanye West, who leveled that scarily ignorant line in his song “Mercy.”
“Plus my b*tch / make your b*tch look like Precious”
Jeantel had to live through a close friend being murdered, watching his killer walk free for far too long, then sitting in front of the world and recounting the painful night with an intimidating older white man directing questions at her while she’s clearly scared out of her mind.
Now, on top of all that, she has to endure some assholes critiquing her looks?
Really, people? Grow the hell up.
–Nick Chiles, “In Attacking Trayvon Martin’s Friend Rachel Jeantel, Black Folks Are Taking It Too Far,” My Brown Baby 6/27/13
By Andrea Plaid
In the midst the Paula Deen- and Miley Cyrus-leveled foolishness this week stood Unlocking The Truth, a trio of young Black guys who’ve been unleashing slaying metal chords in New York City for a minute. Though they didn’t wipe racism’s grime from the nation’s consciousness, they’re a definite salute to what Black folks have long brought to US music–which is fitting for this month, African American Music Appreciation Month (a.k.a. Black Music Month).
By Arturo R. García
If you’ve got a little less than 10 minutes to spare, the short film The Language of Love is worth your time, as 17-year-old writer and performer Kim Ho navigates young Charlie’s coming to terms with his own sexuality when asked to write an essay describing his best friend.
“What the f-ck is happening to me?” he gasps after confessing to the viewer how he really feels. “Like, my heart beats faster when he’s around. And I can’t think of anybody else. I don’t need that. Especially not in a French exam. But, I can’t help it. I can’t control it.”
The film was produced as part of The Voices Project, part of the Fresh Ink development initiative organized by Australian Theatre for Young People. Now in its’ third year, Voices began as a way with a stage show involving various monologues dealing with the subject of young love. Ho’s piece follows in that tradition; it began as a monologue and was adapted into film format after winning a competition.
The language in the film gets a little NSFW, but overall do give this a shot. The film, and a look at the making of it, are both under the cut.
Latoya and Arturo had a conversation last night that started from this story about 33 high school students in California getting suspended for their involvement in a music video that involved twerking.
Besides the discussion on twerking itself–and it becoming popular in a majority-white space–two facts stuck out: a) the video was shot on school property, with school equipment, under the pretense of being an assignment (it was not), and b) many of the seniors involved have to petition to win back their rights to be part of their prom and graduation ceremonies, based on the school’s “zero tolerance” policy:
At Scripps Ranch High school there is zero tolerance for students who cause major disruptions at school or school activities. Any student who causes a major disruption will receive a five (5) day suspension, a possible new school placement and may be arrested.
But at the same time, it’s fair to ask: how are schools doing when it comes to teaching students not just how to use tech, but the implications and ethics associated with that? What happens when your image is in the public eye for some video or something you said on Twitter?
And considering that the video in question was shot with school equipment that somebody, presumably, was in charge of, how liable is the school for not being able to sniff out the problem beforehand? How well are younger people and their educators prepared to deal with (Trigger Warning for upcoming link) a World Star world, and the consequences it can have on not just your educational career, but your professional prospects?
So let’s consider that a call for your thoughts, and your submissions–on not just that issue, but on the kinds of things that most directly affect our younger Racializens. What’s on the mind of the generation coming up?
[Image by Timberlake Regional Library via Flickr Creative Commons]
By Andrea Plaid
While I’ve been working here at the R–among other places–I’ve also been working as the Social Media Fellow at Maysles Documentary Center (MDC), home of Maysles Cinema in Harlem, NY. Started by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) as a community-based movie house run by a mostly multiracial staff, MDC is also home to several educational programs to teach folks in the community to do the same thing he does–get the true-life stories that fascinate them on the screen. And not just adults: Maysles Documentary Center teaches them early, from the Film in Action film club for the 7-to-11 set to the Teen Producers Academy.
And the Academy has been producing some great short docs, ranging from the lessons of superheroes to racial identity to their take on “the Black Hair Wars.” Some of their flicks have been accepted at film festivals around the country this year and one–Triggering Wounds–just won (and what I mean by “just” is the director of the MDC’s educational programs, Christine Peng, sent me an email with the good news from her dying cell phone at 11PM last night) the Best Documentary Film Award from Tribeca Film Festival’s “Our City, My Story” program!
The film–a result of a collaboration with MDC, Harlem Hospital Center, the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Operation Harlem SNUG, and Harlem Mothers SAVE, called the Circle of Safety Initiative–main goal is to be shown to gun-shot victims before they leave the hospital.
I interviewed one of the film’s co-producers, the ever-thoughtful Alejandro Rosario, earlier this week about the film and the impact he hopes the film will have.