Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Line That Was Crossed In The "MLK Jr High vs Stephenson High" Football Game

Comments On YouTube About The Game

The Line That Was Crossed In The "Martin Luther King Jr High vs Stephenson High" Football Game

Dr Martin Luther King Jr:  "We Do We Go From Here?"  - Chaos Or Community

Constructive Feedback:  "What Have We Come To?"   Unconsciousness or "Community Cultural Consciousness & Competency Development

In following the entire series of events surrounding the big rivalry in Dekalb County Georgia between Stephenson High School and Martin Luther King Jr High School among - the football players, the cheerleaders, the general student body, the parents and the news media I was drawn back to the time that I was immersed in the public school system as a frequent substitute teacher.

As a recent transplant to Atlanta in the early 90's, in the midst of a recession - I was forced to become a substitute teacher, roaming between different schools in the Atlanta Public Schools.  While the young children in the elementary schools expressed the expected range of behavior, the children in the middle schools and high schools began trending into certain behaviors that proved astonishing to me.  

In the case of the lunch room conflicts that I witnessed it was ME who was the exception.  The permanent school administors understood this as the norm.  Their job was to put forth an authoritarian presence with the hopes of keeping any of these conflicts from turning physical. 

The one incident that remains in my mind is the event in which two 8th grade Black girls squared up for a fist fight in the lunch room.  As I stood between them with the consciousness of a delicate peace maker who was dealing with "two ladies" - one of them reached around me to strike the target of her anger. 

Before I could get a hold of the gap between my expectations per my own experience in school and what was happening around me - the assistant principal swooped in behind me and grabbed up both girls as a means of restraing them.   The fight stopped for a second.

One of the girls calmed down and he released her.   The other girl began to fight him.  The forearm that was just above her breasts was shifted around her neck as she fought to get loose.  5 seconds later she passed out on to the floor having lost temporary consciousness.

She stood back up and began to charge the other girl.

For me - I realized that my mistake was to assume that these two girls had been indoctrinated in "how ladies should act".   Even more the lack of respect among the majority of these students regarding how to carry themselves in school and other institutions was lacking.   The assistant principal's perspective was in tune with the situation.

I was not prepared for what happened the next day.   In the early part of the school day the one girls father came storming up to the school (according to the principal and assistance principal).   What I had assumed would have been - "I am sorry sir for the way my daughter acted in your lunch room.  She was not raised like that.  She knows better" turned out to be the 180 degree opposite:


The reason why I emphasize proportionality as a key tool for assessing a situation is borne out in this situation.   By far his daughter was an angry aggressor in every phase of the conflict.   In a lunch room packed with kids his daughter was 1/2 of the stage show that triggered most of the kids to leave their table and watch a fight.  (Did I mention that the funniest part was when the other girl pulled out her little pony tail hair piece as she prepared to rumble?  Both girls were a bit chunky so it was bound to be a physical fight).

There is simply no way that a person who watched the entire episode could say that the AP purposely choked the girl.   He did the right thing with regard to these two girls that were prepared to tear each other to shreds - no respect for the surroundings that they were in.  The AP's job was to stop these two who did not care and remove them from the presence of these other kids so they could focus on learning.

After I heard the parent's response I realized that my job #1 was to get away from the school system and to find a more permanent job.  They did indeed lack Black male instructors.  The average new hire teacher only lasted 5 years.   The ladies had a sign that they used among themselves.  They held up 5 fingers on their hand to indicate when they are getting the heck out of the classroom to find something more rewarding.    Sadly it is not the teaching that is unpleasant it is the discipline problems and the hostile, uncooperative parents.  They got little support and reenforcement from SOME parent.   The differences could be clearly seen in the students.

At the same school - report card day was an eye opener.  The one girl who was an "A student" was ostracized as "thinking that she is better than everyone else".   I could tell that she came from a family that actively managed her education.  

Unfortunately the sight of how the grade "C" was seen as an "A" among the rest of the students.   "I got a 'D' least I didn't fail.".   The little boy who would rest his head on the desk in every class did get an "F".  They too had a story about him - "He never comes to school.  He always gets 'Fs'".

At a nearby high school I was assigned to the "General Math" class for 12th graders.  Despite the fact that they were about to graduate into the world in a few short months the reasons why they were assigned to "General Math" rather than algebra, much less "Honors Calculus" became clear.

As I observed the classroom dynamics while they feeled me out - I noticed that one male student was "busting on" a female, running her down in the way of jokes that got easy laughs.  She would verbally assault him or slap him as a means of her rebuttal.  

It was clear that this was "the norm" in this class.  I just happened to be the person standing in the front of the room. 

I felt like I was in a back alley somewhere.   The only thing that was missing was the individual bags of  "40's ", some cigarettes and a deck of cards.  These young Black students had no consciousness of their behavior and when to turn it off per their respect for the institution that they were in.

The story from my time as a substitute detailed above, the aggregate behavior surrounding the big football rivalry last night as well as the school bullying that is in the news are all symptoms of  a greater problem that exists in our society and more acutely within the Black community.

The problem is the lack of respect for INSTITUTIONS.

It is possible that at least some of the patents in the stadium during the football game were high school students nearly 20 years ago when the memories that I detailed were fused in my mind.

The irony is still stuck in my mind:  The school buses of one Black school are defaced by the spray paint put on them from their football rivals at another Black school.   Instead of the words "Niggers Go Home" - the words that would be painted if these same Black students stood in Lithonia Georgia 50 years ago have been replaced by the spray painted words:  "MLK".

Surely this is too much for others to take as well.

As Martin Luther King Jr was venerated just a few short weeks ago in Washington DC the man was honored because of his work to improve America for a larger set of people.

The name, his physical form and snippets of his words were assembled for the display in the monument.

Increasingly the man's name and his image that is loaned to various schools and thoroughfares within the Black Community fail to mask the dysfunctional behavior that occur.  This is less of a matter of the lack of respect for Dr King and is instead an indictment of the general lack of consciousness and respect over all.

I believe that we have been guilty of "idol worship" where "a man" has been hoisted as a leader and then as a symbol.   This physical being was allowed to substitute for the need for education and enculturation on the fundamental principles needed to mold our people. 

Over time the same rituals that have been developed for the sake of unity and common reference become empty containers that register conformity.

When that level of conformity is directed to a point which is "dumbed down", far below the level that we need to prosper as a community - a reform movement must come about. 

Not a radical and destructive revolution but a necessary recalibration back toward the tried and true methods that history has shown are effective at developing a society of people.

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