Raise your voice (and use your money) against the Philadelphia School District

Thanks to Minority Militant, Alpha-Asian, AngryAsianMan, Field, and, well, just about everyone else, for bringing some attention to the racial violence taking place at South Philadelphia High School. We’re not seeing it very much in the mainstream media, so I think it’s good that bloggers are “covering” it. (I put “covering” in parentheses since we’re just linking to a mainstream account.)

The story is as follows: around 30 Asian American students at South Philadelphia High were physically attacked for racial reasons on December 3rd and are now boycotting school until officials do something to stop the ongoing violence.  According to most reports, the violence and ethnic intimidation have been going on for some time, and the school administrators have a history of sweeping it under the rug.  The students are afraid for their lives and have vowed not to go back or “negotiate” with school officials unless community leaders are present.  South Philly is 70% black and 18% Asian, and reports say that the attacks were largely a black-on-Asian event.

First, let me just say that I think it’s ridiculous that these kids have to “negotiate” their own safety.  People negotiate when there are hostages, or when someone is threatening to blow up a building, or in other situations where life and death and severe injury are at stake.  Kids SHOULDN’T be negotiating over going to school.  The Field Negro blog rightly quotes and takes to task one of these school administrators:

“What gets lost in all of this is the fact that the school, the community and the students have worked hard over the past two years to foster that kind of positive learning environment,” said James Golden, the school district’s chief safety executive. “Despite what happened this week, that positive learning environment prevails.”

HAHAHA…HOOO BOY.  This guy is the “school district’s chief safety executive,” and he’s saying that there is a “positive learning environment?”  Well, it doesn’t sound all that positive to me if you’re one of these Asian students being beaten, nor does it sound positive if you’re one of the gang roaming the halls looking for an Asian person to beat.  Unless “safety” means telling kids not to run with scissors, it sounds to me like he’s deflecting crimes that took place under his watch as the “safety executive.”

This is one of those issues where some will play the field halfway by making this into an anti-black tirade by the media.  I was extremely disappointed by one APAP blogger’s politically correct “let’s just blame the mainstream media” viewpoint which says,

Chen and his peers are looking beyond law enforcement mechanisms to foster a more secure campus. Let’s be real here: South Philadelphia High is 70 percent Black and 18 percent Asian. The “disciplining” of those involved in the attacks often translates into the further criminalization of youth of color. High school students in Philly, New York in the Midwest, the South, and yes, even in California, are being taunted and physically attacked for being Asian, and yet schools and police respond by criminally prosecuting kids. What these perpetrators did is wrong. But how will these measures curb the racism and hostility faced by Asian immigrant students?

These incidents of cross-cultural, interpersonal violence warrant the creation of strong, anti-oppression curriculum that avouches the powerful stereotypes generated by the systemic relations between this nation’s racial groups. And it’s no help that the model minority myth, which mainstream coverage of anti-Asian violence often perpetuates, has long pitted Asian Americans against other communities of color.

Um, what?  It’s amazing how the author criticizes “mainstream coverage” of the media and not the violence itself.  Read her entire post and count the times she criticizes the violence.  I’m not sure she even does it once.  And creating an “anti-oppression curriculum” isn’t going to work if the Asian kids aren’t going to school and the kids who beat them are not going to class.

The author says “let’s be real.”  So let’s REALLY get REAL.  Let’s not talk about model minority myths or criminalization of youth of color by the media.  Instead of dancing around this issue, let’s just call it what it is: a crime.  The kids who beat down the Asian kids commited a CRIME, and they need to face some disciplinary measures.  They also need to be separated from the good kids so they don’t attack again.  According to reports, it’s a trend rather than a single incident.  These violent people are criminals, and they need to be treated as such.  And adults like James Golden, who have big fancy titles but don’t seem to take any responsibility for the job they are hired to do, also need to face some form of discipline–for both wasting taxpayers money and for endangering these poor children.  Somebody needs to be fired or placed on leave.

Now I know that some “activists” want to attack the media or deflect blame from the guilty.  It’s the easy thing to do, and people at least think it will help them to say something without making enemies.  But it’s also a complete waste of my time and yours.  As uRB4N said in the IR podcast, if you want to fix a problem, you need to begin by identifying it.  African American bloggers like Field Negro and Latoya and Asian American bloggers like Minority Militant and AlphaAsian have taken the courageous step of identifying the problem.  It’s a combination of violent kids supported by incompetent administrators who help perpetuate a racially hostile culture.  We’d best follow the leads of these courageous bloggers rather than taking the politically correct approach of blaming some phantom societal force.  We’d best be urging the responsible parties to take responsibility.  There are some longer term steps that we ought to take–as Latoya, Field, and others point out–but right now we need to face the immediate problem by stopping the violence.

So here’s what you can do about it:

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has said that it will file a complaint with the United States Department of Justice against the Philadelphia School District. On MinorityMilitant’s blog, there is a reader who has pledged to match donations up to a total of $100.  Go to TMM’s site and leave a comment to let them know how much you’re giving.  (I have no idea how we can make sure the reader fulfills his end of the bargain.  On the other hand, how would he know if I were to lie about my donation?  Hmm…okay, everyone is on the honor system here.)

Make sure you specify that your money is going towards the civil rights complaint against the Philadelphia School District.  This is very important because the AALDEF also promotes some questionable agendas like giving an award to Nicholas Kristof and blindly supporting reverse racism, I mean, affirmative action, so you want to make sure your money goes to the good things they do and not to the bad things. Under the designation, I wrote: “Money to be used ONLY for civil rights complaint against Philadelphia School District.”  Honor system again–AALDEF, please don’t spend my money to legalize racism and to keep my son or the next Jian Li out of college.

I donated $20. It’s not a lot; this year has been rough.  But hopefully TMM’s guy will match it, and hopefully we’ll inspire more gifts.  Happy holidays, AALDEF.  Let’s use our influence to protect these kids.

31 thoughts on “Raise your voice (and use your money) against the Philadelphia School District

  1. Thank you so much for spreading the word, B. It’s times like these that we do look at our problems and say we do take real action for a real world cause and recognize that many others have the same sentiments. Respect. I posted the snapshot the donor sent to me when he donated on my page.

  2. Thanks Byron for picking this up too. Your voice is too important to be silent on this issue especially since you are eloquent and have critical insight. Your analysis is insightful and sharp. Groups like APAs for Progress do have a problem with trying to balance being politically correct and “speaking for APAs”. It happens all too much.

    They are not the only one’s to play the blame game and even excuse the criminal perpetrators of the violence. A lot of other people have gone this route. Even over on 8asians, one of their posters basically accused the victims for bringing the violence upon themselves by being too “cliquey” and not being able to speak English well. The same thing occurred with the SF Muni bus fight. So many APAs criticized the Chinese lady for defending herself.

    I am the progenitor of the donation and challenge to match MM’s donation. Check back to his site as he has posted a screen grab of my donation (as proof for the skeptical).

    Thanks again for your support. Hopefully the AALEDF will recognize the contributions of this community.

  3. Glad you’re spreading the word, B. I cannot stand disloyalty, and worse, I cannot stand blind loyalty to those who do not reciprocate. Asian Americans who are socially and politically active tend to support African Americans in their causes. We rarely get any reciprocal support these days. When it comes to our rights, we are left to fend for ourselves and only a few brave African Americans, white Americans and Asian Americans step forward and call it like it is.

    being “cliquey” and socially insular is one thing, but nobody deserves to have the sh!t beat out of them.

  4. been trying to get caught up here on the posts, busy at work. as for the media coverage, I am perturbed that it didn’t seem to warrant much national coverage and remained a local story. That bothers me because if we dont’ get any attention, then it fosters the mindset that Asian Americans don’t count. if it were white and black kids, you KNOW that would have been covered in the national media and not just local.

    To not highlight the injustices these kids have had to endure for their right to get an education createss a mindset that nothing bad ever happens to Asian Americans. If the general populace doesn’t know, then they don’t understand why AA communities are “complaining” when we have it so “good”. No, the bad shit needs to be exposed so that people can see all the poisons lurking in the mud, so they can see things as they really are: you have a bureaucracy that abdicated their moral responsibility to these kids. And because it seems the ones perpetrating the violence were African American kids, nobody wanted to touch that issue. And so it sent the message that it’s okay to assault Asian kids because, well, they just don’t count.

    You know, why hasn’t there been any media coverage on who Arlene Ackerman is and what her record as an educator has been? Apparently, she didn’t have such a great tenure in San Francisco or in DC.

  5. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior. These attacks are purely racist and should be treated as hate crimes. You can’t coddle these kids—now is the time to throw the book at them and make an example of the attackers. I (and many others) are sick of dealing with these kind of idiots as if their only real problem is that they they don’t have enough after school programs or job opportunities. Being poor is no excuse for being a racist.

    These kind of kids are predators, and they prey on White kids, Asian kids, and Latino kids, because they feel they can get away with it. Of course, they also prey on Black kids who seem to be more interested in doing their homework than doing crime. They will most likely end up in the juvenile correctional system because of this, and will soon thereafter end up back into the prison system for one thing or the other. When they get out, I can guarantee that their primary targets will have shifted to mostly Black people. It’s an old and all too familiar story.

    I encourage everyone to donate to AALDEF and just paste in Byron’s line “Money to be used ONLY for civil rights complaint against Philadelphia School District.” There comes a time when being a mere spectator is no longer an option. If ever there was a time to act, this is it.

  6. “the bad shit needs to be exposed so that people can see all the poisons lurking in the mud, so they can see things as they really are: you have a bureaucracy that abdicated their moral responsibility to these kids. And because it seems the ones perpetrating the violence were African American kids, nobody wanted to touch that issue. “

    Very true. The remedy is to call your local affiliate and ask, “Why aren’t you covering this story? Are you prejudiced or something?” A few calls like that and you’ll see that the story will begin to get more media exposure.

  7. I can’t comment much, but I want to say a few things:

    1.) Thank you Jaehwan for raising awareness of this issue.
    2.) I gave $25.00, because I wanted to give more money than you.

    In all seriousness, that student in the clip (can’t reference him by name because no names were posted) said the offenders were running in the hallway looking in classes for Asian students to harass. I’m not up on the new flavors of criminal law, but it sounds like hate crimes to me.

    The other guy, I presume he is from the school district, trying to make it sound like it’s not a hate crime and not the responsibility of the School District? Am I missing something? At first I was thinking, well maybe these kids were being beaten up at the mall or on the street, but it seems, based on this one clip, that nexus is the school and that the crimes took place either on the way to school or in the school.

  8. “Arlene Ackerman: My belief is that a successful school has a successful principal. If you want to change a school, change the principal. I believe also that the victory is in the classroom, but is facilitated by a strong instructional leader. We will continue to focus on building level leadership. Principals are responsible for supporting, developing and hiring strong teachers. We are implementing a new performance-based teacher evaluation process this year that will give principals more latitude in helping teachers improve the teaching and learning process.”

    Oh really??? I realize she was talking about DC but when are the heads going to roll in Philly?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/levey/bob0915.htm

  9. This most recent attack on Asian students is part of a broader trend that goes back the past few years and is not limited to South Philly High School but includes schools (including elementary schools) in Northeast and South Philadelphia in general. There was even a very large subway rumble in Oct. 2008

    “Asian Students Under Assault”
    http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/Asian-Students-Under-Assault.html

    School administrators have not only turned a blind eye to these attacks but have been complict in them.

    South Philly High Students Speak Out, Target Ed Staff
    http://www.apimovement.com/students/south-philly-high-students-speak-out-target-ed-staff

    To be frank, one practical thing that needs to be done is self-defense courses for these students who face attack.

    Knowing how to defend yourself can be deterrence against would-be bullies.

  10. Larry:

    I agree with you 100% on this issue. From my prior posts, you all probably get the sense that I am more of a “care for your own self” kind of philosophy. However in these matters, I think the attacks on the Asian students have gone beyond mere bullying. The community and the school needs to take action.

    All kidding aside, my comment above is not about showing off or “beating” my friend at that amount of a donation, although it does make it fun. Money is seriously tight for all of us. However, it is dispicable that the school district in Philly is not taking this matter seriously. Our children, whether they are Asian, Black, Hispanic or White need to be provided for and protected. From what I see, both the Asian and Black children are harmed by the lack of guidance and discepline by the adults in charge of their well being. The posture of the school sends the wrong message to impressionable children.

  11. Wow! You guys are amazing.

    AG: Thanks for beating me! Haha…I was actually hoping NOT to be the leader on this, so thanks!

    King,

    Thank you! I definitely agree with you. We need to show everyone that they need to take responsibility. I’ll admit that part of me feels guilty for never having stepped into a public school to get to know kids like this (probably because I’m not in education), but the administrators need to let them know that their actions count, positive or negative.

    Alpha,

    Crazy, isn’t it? Cliquey is natural for people who aren’t native born Americans. Maybe the administration should be working on integrating them rather than fueling tensions.

    Mojo,

    We definitely need that info to get out.

    Larry,

    It’s definitely a trend.

    TMM,

    Thanks again for posting this, brother!

    Jorge,

    Thanks for dropping the challenge! It’s a great way to build excitement, and within just 24 hours, I think we may have maxed out the $100 match:

    TMM: $20
    B: $20
    AG: $25
    Leon: $30
    Another bigWOWO donor: $20 (may disclose later depending on the person’s wishes; the person gave it in my name, so I got the notice from justgive.org)

    With Julie, I’m sure we must’ve hit it.

    Man, I tell you, I almost cried when I turned on the computer just now. Either I was really touched, or all this novel writing has turned me into a hyper sensitive wimp. I think it’s the former. Awesome work!

  12. @King,

    I actually wrote to the Washington Post’s ombudsman for what it’s worth, stating that this was a national news story, not just a local one, and that they should have had a story on this. Philly is only about 2 hours or some change away from DC. The Post’s examination of race has to go beyond just black and white issues. In addition, the school superintendant Arlene Ackerman used to be here in DC, isn’t that a local connection? I doubt it will make much impact, but at least I gave him something to think about in their news coverage.

  13. @ mojo braziers

    Wow, great! Hey, can you give me the contact info for that same guy? If more than one person contacts him, it will probably have more impact. I’ll go next! THANKS.

  14. With his permission, I’m outting the anonymous donor.

    Anonymous Donor = King

    And I’m not talking about Elvis either.

    Thanks, King!

    Mojo,

    I’ll contact him too. What is his name/contact?

  15. King, you are to be commended for your generosity.

    as for my contacting the ombudsman, it’s just a start and it isn’t just the Wash Post, but I looked to see if even CNN.com carried the story and I didn’t see it. MSNBC did carry the story, which is nice. But the thing is, the story is still evolving. There needs to be more media scrutiny, not just from the Philadelphia local news organizations, but the national media, as to who are these people who control the lives of these students? Who knew what and when did they know and why did they abdicate their moral responsibility?

    Asian Americans also needed to be included in any discussion or examination about race. I don’t mean to belittle the problems that African Americans have in this country, we all know it hasn’t been a bowl of cherries for that community either, but race relations in the US is more than just black and white folks. But to ignore what happens to these kids is to say that they don’t count. Contact info is:

    Andrew Alexander, ombudsman

    ombudsman@washpost.com or call at 202-334-7582.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2005/03/25/LI2005032500838.html

  16. “King, you are to be commended for your generosity.”

    Not at all. I was just doing what I think is right.

    “There needs to be more media scrutiny, not just from the Philadelphia local news organizations, but the national media, as to who are these people who control the lives of these students? “

    There is more need of honesty, than scrutiny. It needs to be said that this is a racially motivated attack, and that it is more than just one incident, as Larry has pointed out.

    “Asian Americans also needed to be included in any discussion or examination about race. I don’t mean to belittle the problems that African Americans have in this country, we all know it hasn’t been a bowl of cherries for that community either, but race relations in the US is more than just black and white folks. But to ignore what happens to these kids is to say that they don’t count.”

    I agree. At this point, race relations are seen as Black, White, and Brown. Asians issues are clearly underrepresented. Most people are only familiar with the Asian upper class. Little is made of Asians who either come here, or are born here, who are in the middle and lower classes. These perceptions do much harm when the AA community seeks social justice — it is falsely assumed that Asians share into the White power structure.

  17. Pingback: Model minorities versus Black (reverse) racists: Blacks, Asian Americans, & South Philadelphia High « Bandung 1955

  18. If you hadn’t posted this, I wouldn’t have known about it…and I consider myself to be a prolific newshound…

    Echoing the comments above, the behavior of the school district officials is completely unacceptable and flat-out offensive. I feel as if they were trying to restore a sense of order here instead of being honest about the gravity of the situation.

    To me, its the systematic targeting of Asian kids that is most appalling. Going around from classroom to classroom and identifying targets based on race or ethnicity? How is that not racial? Various ethnic groups have been historically targeted like this (the list is lengthy, sadly). These events are not analogous to prior atrocities, but they certainly remind us of the importance of working towards racial harmony in a democratic society.

    The response from school officials should have been to call it like it is. Then, they should have worked with local and state officials to address these tensions at the community-level. I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that Asian-Black relations in this community are going to be entirely resolved by reactive “feel-good” efforts. But I don’t see how you can even begin to resolve conflicts without first recognizing them.

    Have any of y’all heard from Mayor Nutter on the issue?

    –Sagar

  19. Some people are doing a better job than I am on following this issue. Check out the latest here:

    http://www.angryasianman.com/2010/01/still-no-agreement-on-violence-at-south.html

    Surprise, surprise, and more backpedaling. This Arlene Ackerman needs to find a job that she can do competently. I think she should resign. There’s too much at stake here. The article that AAM cites is pretty disturbing:

    http://www.philly.com/philly/education/80773267.html

    “Ackerman had booked a bus and brought along a number of South Philadelphia High “student ambassadors” – predominantly African American students not involved in the Dec. 3 fights – to talk about their efforts to promote harmony at the school.

    Absent were any Asian students who had been victims of the attacks or who had boycotted the school last month.

  20. More guys like this and we would never have had the Philadelphia School District racial violence against Asians.

  21. Pingback: Mayor Michael Nutter, Raising Youth, Raising Culture | bigWOWO

  22. Michael Nutter is a solid character to be able to take a stand like this. What was terrible about the bullying targeting asian kids was how the adults turned a blind eye to it. This just highlights how important it is that people take a stand to demand that all people be treated with equal dignity and respect.

  23. In the Asian assault incidents, I’d guess that there were probably adults on both sides of the equation, some clueless and blind to reality, and others feeling as Nutter does, but lacking the platform to widely voice their opinions and objections.

  24. Pingback: Model minorities versus Black (reverse) racists: Blacks, Asian Americans, & South Philadelphia High | Bandung 1955

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