We may no longer live in a Jim Crow era but racism is still thriving. Over the past two months, a string of blatantly racial incidents have erupted across the country. The episodes have ranged from passive to violent. One of the more recent occurred at Oberlin College, a school noted as being one of the first to admit Black students. The college campus was forced to close when reports of a person roaming the grounds in a Ku Klux Klan outfit immerged. Two weeks prior, on February 22, three student fans attended a high school hockey game, wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style white robe and hood in North Dakota. And on February 14, a race riot involving three hundred students erupted and resulted in the injury of four people at a Minneapolis high school.
Despite what this recent trend may suggest, FBI crime statistics report that hate crimes were down about 6 percent in 2011. A separate study conducted by scientists Susan Welch and Lee Sigelman supports the FBI data and found that racial prejudice has been on a steady decline since 1992. Although these recent incidents are not reflective of our nation as a whole, they are a reminder that our country still has a long way to go in establishing how it deals with racial tensions.
JET recently spoke with three members of the Parents & Community, Advocating for Social Education Justice (PCASEJ), Ralph L. Crowder, Betty Ellison Harpole and Juan Coleman. PCASEJ is currently calling for a State and Federal Investigation of a mock lynching that occurred at Washburn High School in Minneapolis, MN that was reported on page 12 of the current issue of JET [April 8, 2013 issue featuring Nia Long on the cover].
Describe the school climate at Washburn after the incident where a Black doll was found on school grounds hanging from a noose?
Crowder: The incident happened on Friday, January 11, and the parents were not informed until the following Wednesday, January 16 at 3:30 pm via email. You can only imagine how African-American parents and community members felt about not being immediately informed about an incident like this. It was very disturbing to say the least.
Has their been any disciplinary action taken against those who were involved?
Crowder: The normal procedure for the Minneapolis public school in a situation like this— a violent act or a disruption to the school climate— is to remove the students and also report their actions to the proper legal authorities. This did not occur with these students, because if it did then they would be able to be identified.
What has been the official response from the school’s administration?
Crowder: The Minneapolis public school system is framing this situation as an insensitive incident. But, if you talked to anybody who understands performing an act like this then they would categorize it as a hate crime. They are calling for a need of tolerance.
Harpole: What they are trying to do with us is act like we are the villains. We just need to “get over it” and that the children were just “horsing around.” “They didn’t mean anything and that they didn’t know anything about Black history.” But, how did they come up with a Black doll with a rope around its neck, hanging across the stairwell? Then proceed to take pictures, make a mockery of it and then drag it down a hallway and stomp on it, if they did not know what it signified?
Coleman: I am a parent who doesn’t enjoy being critical when it comes to school related issues. I prefer to be part of the solution in achieving well-rounded education experiences directed toward students and families’ social success. But at the end of the day it’s about unequal treatment and the Minneapolis school system has not done enough to address this, to have all parents and all students address this issue as a hate crime.
What do you hope the outcome will be from this incident?
Crowder: This is an issue about our children, and the quality of education, specifically for African-Americans. I hope that it motivates people nationally to come in solidarity with this group of parents. The act of racism creates a climate and an atmosphere of fear. I know that we are seeing that play out here locally. We are not seeing any representation from our local Black churches, businesses, public officials and non-profits in support of this issue, and it is very disturbing. If it can happen here in Minneapolis, than believe me, it can happen in DC, Chicago, everywhere.
To learn more information about PCASEJ go to www.parentvoicestalkradioshow.com.