Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pillowcase Talk

Several weeks ago I wrote about, and reproduced some of a comment stream concerning, an incident at a Utah high school. I fully expected the indecent to blow over, and the online taunts to avoid investigation as anonymously untraceable. I was wrong.

The canyons school district put the principal and vice principal on administrative leave. They then investigated possible additional racist activities at the school, and found several. Three students were charged with actual crimes. The department of justice lent a facilitator to help conduct a well attended public meeting.

The principal resigned while on suspension. The vice-principal was moved to a new school. Something like sensitivity training was conducted in classrooms.

This response contrasts sharply with the response related by Raven Rylander to incidents that occurred to her at Alta high school just six years ago. Raven complained of persistent racial taunting. One day she reported to the campus police officer that the phrase “F the N word” (to quote Raven exactly) was scrawled on her locker. The indecent was reported to the school administration and she was counseled to not overreact.

To be fair the administration of the high school may have thought someone was just randomly scrawling potentially racially charged hate-like sayings, and accidentally scrawled one on the locker of one of the vanishingly few black kids in the school. Accidents will happen.

What is the difference between Raven Rylander's situation and Larz Cosby's? The most obvious is that Lars sought help outside of the school system. This threw the administration for a loop, and caused them to miss out on vital elements of the proper managing of the impact of the insult.

The first thing the administration did wrong was allow the KKK hood to ever be called that. Looking at archived TV coverage the description is clearly “KKK-mask” then “KKK-style hood” then “KKK-hoodie”, then “pillowcase that looked like a KKK hood” till it finally settled into “pillowcase that a student interpreted as a KKK hood”. A more competent handling would have fed the media coverage a plausible story like “I think it was part of his younger sister's Halloween costume or something”.  This immediately frames the insult in terms of the insulted person's immaturity and ignorance. The response could then be described as counseling both the insulted and insulting students. Both students have now done something wrong. The problem is manageable.

Regret can then be loudly and often expressed using phrases like: “We are concerned that such a situation could be so misunderstood by both sides”. Here one has equated the insulted and insulter. They are equally culpable. Perhaps they should apologize to each other?

Contrast the bungling of Alta high’s administration with the effortless perfection of Rod Parker. Rod is one of the frontline attorneys for the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) in Colorado City. After the FLDS got fingered supplying the perpetrators for a bonfire of books fueled from a proposed library that they had publically opposed, he said (of the book burners): “They thought they were performing a service by cleaning up this building”.

How ungrateful can people be! Thinking the book removal and burning was a crime! These men worked all night for the common good. According to Parker: “It’s [the future library] been a party place for teens to do, as my clients would say, ‘immoral acts.’ ”

I’m not sure how giant stacks of books would enhance the immorality of those ‘acts’. Picture teens performing ‘immoral acts’ on a stack of Oscar Wilde’s collected works (I’m sure Mr Wilde would have had little trouble picturing this). Now picture them doing it on a bare floor (which is what the FLDS folks prefer to picture). Now picture them doing it in a sunlit meadow under a cloudless sky. Now picture them doing it just about anywhere. Now that you have a better idea of what goes through a teenage mind you should be able to tell me how book piles would contribute to immorality.

I should point out that “Party Place” has a potentially different flavor of meaning in Colorado City/Hildale (2000 census population 3,334) than in many other parts of the country.

The selfless FLDS workers who toiled through the night for the greater good also spent of their own cash in trying to increase the level of morality in the actions of the town’s teens. Driving five tons of books almost a hundred miles must have burned a whole bunch of gas. They arrived in Cedar City in a U-Haul; someone had to dish out some cash for that truck.

I’m sure they drove slowly at night , and took backroads too. They were helped by others who gave them a place to stay when they got tired (It was a couple of days in-between obtaining the books and attempting to donate them to DI). They may have even gotten help covering the U-Haul with camouflage netting to prevent the truck from distracting pilots. Think of how thoughtful and selfless these folks were.
Burning Sage

What about the burning books? Contrary to my suggestion earlier that the fire provided warmth the fire was apparently to dispose of debris cleared out of the building. Picture immoral acts with random debris and you know what was probably going through the minds of those FLDS men.

Yes, there were apparently some books in the debris that were burned, but all the burned books were “damaged beyond repair”. Those irreparably damaged books were probably damaged immorally. See how easy it is for your mind to picture irreparably damaging books performing “immoral acts”; have you ever thought of joining the FLDS church?

Unfortunately the Alta high school administrators apparently had way too much success in simply squashing the reporting of incidents. When the story got out they were caught with their pants down.

According to “Alta parent” Fred Lowry the students at Alta high school in the Canyon's school district “Live in an area that they really truly are colorblind”. Several students interviewed for camera fodder expressed disbelief that there was any racism at Alta high school.

"This is blown out of proportion" was a common refrain. “Out of proportion to what?”, I ask. Out of proportion to the repeated incidents that were not reported personally to each Alta student and parent? Out of proportion to their own microscopic fantasy-world-view?

Just because someone can say something with a straight face does not make it true. Just because someone believes something does not make it reality. What would parents like Fred Lowry know about racism at the school? Do they think that anyone would report incidents to them unless they had to?

One of my favorite threads of response is the 'another black kid saw it and was not offended'. This thread is so popular that someone reproduced a portion of 'some black kid's comments' in the comment section of my delusionati post. If there were enough black kids to form a statistically accurate consensus then a 'black' perspective might provide a cultural perspective of note. With just one black kid (or even a small handfull) I have no idea why they are motivated to make their remarks. Perhaps they are acting up for peer acceptance, I bet there are many kids doing far worse things at Alta for peer acceptance. I heard of one kid who wore a KKK hood. Since it is an internet forum I cannot even be sure they are black.

There are so many truly ignorant voices contributing to the cacophony of response to the Alta high incident that it is difficult to pick out any for specific scrutiny. For instance, one of the comments left on this blog includes the sentence: “Racism and Bigotry cut both ways.”. I love this sentence. I could write an entire essay using only this sentence as a springboard. I would include lines like “Yeah we lynched him, but that was one of my favorite ropes” or “Hobbling is supposed to be painful, but I didn’t count on this nasty splinter form the log”, or “With the price of oil so high tar don’t come cheap these days”.

Silently must the axe-wielding executioner suffer his carpel tunnel pain

The FLDS, on the other hand, speak with the single voice of their attorney. They avoid the uncomfortable soundbites that could occur if members of their church spoke out on the incident. What do you think the media would make of an obese balding plural-teenaged-wived inbreeder describing immoral acts involving teens, books and random debris…assuming such soundbites could be cleaned up for publication.

It might be a better world if the students at Alta high just call up the FLDS and ask them what normal teens should be thinking of. They could avoid all this racism nonsense. Pillowcases are for beds. “Going to bed” with someone is not a euphemism for dressing up like a KKK member and flashing people the Heil-Hitler salute. Instead of punching holes in their pillowcases they could do what is morally right. They should take their pillows down to the local library and get engaged to a fat multiply-married late-middle-aged god-fearing male.

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