Monday, November 05, 2007


It occurs to me that I am cataloguing, watching, and waiting for shit to explode in my little corner of the world.

Something is going on here in my home region, something created by the nature of race, gender, and class relations here. Everyone is whispering, but no one is talking.

To date:

Precious "Petey" Story, an 18-year old white woman, was murdered in August. The suspected murderers are young black men, one of whom Petey had previously dated.

Shortly thereafter, when the family of a local white girl decided that she was missing, they went to the home of her black ex-boyfriend and demanded entry. She was not there (was later found on her family's property), but that did not stop her parents from withdrawing her from the local, primarily black high school. They were careful to state that they were not racist, but did not believe in interracial dating.

Over the next couple of days, at least seven other white students withdrew (fewer than 30 were enrolled). When my offended best friend asked one of the white boys about it, he said that his sister confessed to being "afraid" to attend school with so many black boys now. "If one of them tries to date her and she refuses, she's scared of what he might do to her."

Really. He said that.

In a neighboring town, four black boys and one white girl checked out of school one day. They "went to one of the boys’ house, located close to the school, where sex occurred between one of the boys and the girl." They returned to after-school activities and during that time, the girl said she had been raped.
The 14-year-old girl was taken to a local hospital, treated for possible rape, and released to her parents.

A 16-year-old male [was charged] with forcible rape... and placed... in an undisclosed juvenile detention center. He was later released.

...The school district conducted a thorough investigation of the incident and determined that sex occurred, but there was no evidence of a rape. No staff members were notified that a rape had occurred during the school day.
The girl's parents have removed her from the parish school district.

When Ouachita Christian (you know what "Christian" typically means in the name of a southern school right? k, thx) played the majority black Madison High School in football in September, some parents reported hearing gunshots. Some time later, OCS played the (majority black) high school where my best friend is cheerleading advisor. She sent her girls over to introduce themselves, but the OCS cheerleaders were not allowed to come to their side. The gist of the OCS cheerleading advisor's explanation? While it was safe for the black cheerleaders to face their crowd, they couldn't trust the black crowd not to shoot at their cheerleaders.

When I visited the local high school recently, the staff was abuzz with the news that a white male student had brought a noose to school at another nearby high school. School officials have not let a word of that out, so I cannot verify that beyond what I heard that day.

Then, keep in mind, I live about 100 miles from Jena and about 45 miles from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, home of these students who mocked the circumstances surrounding the Jena Six cases by blackfacing themselves with mud.

Oh, and the local solution for addressing the violence and problems here? Take the black kids to Angola and "scare them straight":
Gary Clark, a childhood friend and successful businessman, and I were having conversations recently and the topic of jail came up. ...we talked about the number of black men incarcerated and the things that scared us straight.
“You remember when we were at Westside High* and prisoners were brought to the school and talked about prison life, ’’ said the retired Mobil Oil accountant and successful business owner. “...The things they said about prison life scared the (heck) out of me. I knew then, I was not going to do anything that would send me to jail.”
Tommy L. Carr... and members of the community have taken at risk juveniles -- mostly boys -- on prison visits. “And I have seen how these visits changed the lives of young people,” said Carr. A planned Oct. 23 trip to Angola – the Louisiana State Penitentiary - sponsored by District Attorney Bob Levy, will introduce both area boys and girls to prison life.
Angola... has a prison population of more than 5,000 of which 77 percent are black males.
Most prisoners are sentenced to natural life or exceedingly long sentences. It is estimated that 85 percent of the current population will die behind prison walls.
Carr wants to stop this madness. Both Levy and Carr should be commended for their intervention efforts to keep juveniles out of jail.
Even if it means scaring them straight.
That passage is so simultaneously loaded and clueless that I just can't break it all down right now.

Why am I troubled? I mean, for a long time white parents have been vocal about their desire to separate their kids from ours because our kids are violent, threatening, and dangerous, because a violent act committed by one black kid is reflective of the inherently criminal nature of all black kids. In a sense, this is nothing new. Part of me thinks maybe I've just been away for a while and am supersensitive to all the tensions simmering here.

But the other part of me thinks things can't continue to go on this way. This is a lot, in a small area, in a short time frame. I think people here have to begin to talk. Because I am hesitant and, yes, afraid, I decided to begin here.
*Westside High was the "black" school in the latter days of segregated schools in Union Parish.


RageyOne said...

Hmmm...there seems to be a lot happening in that area of our state. This is very disconcerting. :(

elle said...

Disconcerting to say the least. It's also hard, b/c I knew Petey and I am angry about what happened to her. Beyond angry. But I am bothered by the tense, racialized responses.

Similarly, the case involving the middle school girl has triggered an inner conflict for me. My gut reaction is to always believe the woman, but I had it drilled into me over and over as a child that, if white women in towns like mine are "caught" having sex with black men, they will say they were raped to protect their reputations (and their lives, in some cases).

I have worked hard to abandon that lesson, but I have to admit, truthfully, that, yes, it lurks in my mind, acknowledged both as a method of discrediting women and as a reality to my grandmothers and great aunts who whispered it to me.

Rent Party said...

I think things are getting worse. Good post btw and important.

Audience shooting at cheerleaders?!
They are so tripping!

k8 said...

The cheerleader thing is absolutely crazy! I'm a bit torn about the situation with the 14 year old. I don't know the age of consent in your state, but it could be statutory rape regardless of whether force was involved or not. But, it sounds like it is difficult to know just what actually happened in that case. But, I'm very aware of the fact that accusing the guy of rape to "protect" a reputation happens all too often. I'm conflicted for a lot of reasons on that one, not the least of which is her age.

As for the cumulative effects in the community, it seems that these people withdrawing their kids from school and fearing shootouts at the football games have conveniently blocked out all of the violent acts committed by white adolescent males. My high school was 99% white (seriously, I saw the stats for the school while on a college visit and we were listed as having less than 1% minority students) and some of those young "men" committed all manner of horrific acts. I don't recall anyone taking their children out of school to avoid the white boys.

Unknown said...

You're right to be frightened--don't doubt yourself on that. I've often wondered why there hasn't been another major explosion involving race already, and I honestly thought the Jena 6 incident might trigger it. I'm glad it hasn't, though it might have had the effect of emboldening (I hate that damn word) the people who've been trying to hide their racism because they felt it wasn't accepted. I hope I'm wrong on this sort of thing, but I get the ugly feeling that there's an explosion about to happen somewhere.

changeseeker said...

This is a very slow boil headed for who knows what. Keep us apprised. You're right on point to be concerned and to put it out here where we know. The frightening part is that things are already building and when it blows up, which it looks as if it's headed for, it's going to come fast and hit hard, maybe lethally. This is not a good thing, but it's not surprising either.

Leslie M-B said...

Argh. This is scary, this level of ignorance and its potential for violence.

When I was in high school (Snoop Dogg's alma mater, dontcha know), our situation was very different at football games. We played Compton High, but neither year I was in band did we actually play at Compton. I was told that in previous years our bus of (very) diverse band members had a police escort into Compton, and that band members were told to get off the bus without making eye contact with anyone on the ground, and to keep their hands by their sides. I'm not sure if this was a response to our schools being in different gang territories (I'm not even sure now which gangs controlled what turf), or the perception that our high school, while in a "marginal" or "inner city" neighborhood, was more civilized than Compton and its majority black study body.

Percentage-wise, my school was then approximately 20/20/20/20/20 black/white/Asian/Pacific Islander/Latino/a. So there was an exceptional diversity, which perhaps was still seen as less threatening than a majority-black presence.

Tangential, but related: when I was in high school, Compton's mascot was still "The Tarbabies." Yes, there were high school boys dressed in giant blue diapers dancing to an African drum beat. I had to rub my eyes to be sure I wasn't seeing things.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...