Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 1999/20 Kislev, 5760
WELL, AT LEAST it's not about race.
Reverend Jackson intervened on behalf of seven black Decatur, Illinois,
high school students, expelled for inciting a brawl at a high school
football game. "This isn't about black and white," he insists, "but wrong
and right." Jackson's involvement, he assures us, is not about race.
Jackson demanded the immediate re-enrollment of the students, arguing that
the punishment did not fit the crime. Then, oops, a video of the fight
surfaced, and Jackson's initial description of a "simple fistfight" did not
bear up. It looked ugly. Many people could have been hurt. Still, the
under-pressure school board agreed to cut the suspension to one year. And
the governor of Illinois agreed to change policy and allow the students to
enroll in an alternative school and receive credit. This would insure that
the seniors involved could still graduate "on time."
Unappeased, Jackson forced authorities to arrest him when he showed up,
students in hand, and demanded their immediate re-enrollment. "The schools
are 48 percent black and brown," said Jackson, "the teachers and the school
board are 90 percent white. This is what happens when you have these culture
gaps and stereotypes, and unfounded fears." But, remember, this is not about
In the 1998-99 school year, the 11,000 student Decatur school district
suspended or expelled 1,700 students. Of those students, 40 percent were
white. So, in a school district that is 48 percent "minority," the
"punishment gap" does not appear very pronounced.
The seven students collectively missed over 300 days in their high school
careers. And the school board claims previous behavioral problems on the
part of some of the students. Tell us, Reverend Jackson, when these kids
re-enroll, will you guarantee attendance?
And, what of the parents of the Decatur Seven? Will just one stand up and
publicly state, "My child did wrong. I teach him non-violence. And he should
accept the consequences of his bad behavior." What a message Jackson sends
to children. No matter how rotten, objectionable, or despicable your
behavior, if you're a minority, some victicrat will come along and play the
race card on your behalf. Why, Jackson even compared the "plight" of the
Decatur Seven to the attacks against '60s civil rights protesters in Selma,
Alabama! But, remember, this is not about race.
And, as usual, the media played monkey to Jesse Jackson's organ grinder.
Pre-Jackson, the Decatur Seven barely made a blip on the radar screen. But
then Jackson showed up. And so did the cameras, making this a national
The mainstream media also made Jackson's intrusion seem less obnoxious.
How? Writers consistently failed to accurately describe the board's initial
punishment, making it sound more harsh. An Associated Press article, typical
of many, said the school board "expelled (the students) for two years after
allegedly taking part in a brawl ... " No. The board expelled them for up to
two years, with a review at the end of the current school year. Big
And, in analyzing this incident, the media performs its usual act of
condescension. Remember Columbine? Little time passed before the media began
asking obvious questions: "Where were Eric Harris' and Dylan Klebold's mom
and dad?" We quickly learned their professions, and that one of them worked
out of the home. But in Decatur, we see photos of, and read references to,
the youths' mothers, but where are the dads? No one asks.
Nearly one-quarter of young black men possess criminal records. Nearly 50
percent of America's prison population consists of blacks, mostly black men.
Today, we see nearly 70 percent of America's black children born to unwed
mothers. The lack of two caring, role-modeling moms and dads remains the
single, biggest problem facing this country in general, and the black
community in particular.
Yet, Jesse Jackson condemns the Decatur school board for taking action to
minimize violence -- a behavior that not only threatens the lives of other
students and teachers, but also pollutes the educational atmosphere
necessary to achieve a decent education.
The National League of Cities studied school violence, and a few years ago
reported that 900 teachers get threatened per hour; that nearly 40 teachers
per hour are attacked; and that 40 percent of public school students worry
Reverend Jackson plainly expects and accepts a lower level of civility from
black students. How far is this from expecting and accepting a lower level
of achievement from black students? Massachusetts, for example, now demands
that students pass a proficiency test before graduating from high school.
But since projections show many blacks and Latino students unable to meet
the standard, critics cry racism. Call this the Jackson legacy. For, by
almost justifying bad, violent and disruptive conduct, he unintentionally
contributes to the failure of minority students to perform.
Now that is about
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©1999, Creators Syndicate