Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Are We Cowards on Race...or Just Plain Stupid?

The topic for this story comes from a reader, Pack04. He sent me this link for a story from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. For the complete story, refer to the link, but here are the highlights:

  • Catherine Ariemma is a teacher at a high school in north Georgia. She has been honored by both the community and the state for her dedication to her students and her profession.

  • Mrs. Ariemma was working with her advanced placement history students on a film project discussing racism.

  • Last Thursday, she had four students dress in Klu Klux Klan robes and walk through a portion of the school. She did not intend them to be anywhere near students, but forgot some students were eating lunch at the time of the filming.

  • Some students, including senior Cody Rider, were offended and complained to their parents. Their parents complained.

  • Activist Rev. Markel Hutchins was called to the town to, according to the AJC, quell,"...what seemed to be growing frustration among Dahlonega's small African American community."

  • Mrs. Ariemma has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. According to the AJC, "{School Superintendent}Moye said Ariemma has never been reprimanded for missteps and that she has always been an "outstanding" teacher. But he said he could not ignore this incident." The school system attorney is interviewing students to determine "what happened".

  • During a conversation with the School Superintendent, "...Hutchins asked the superintendent that a meeting be convened between the mayor and police chief to address Cody’s safety, as well as planning a diversity sensitivity training for the city, school staff and sheriff deputies."

These are the facts as reported by the AJC. The last one I find particularly depressing and humorous at the same time. Apparently senior Cody Rider is fearful the schools actors may come after him. The only threat of violence from the story is actually Mr. Rider threatening the actors.

In the story, Mrs. Ariemma said she was trying to do a film project with the students discussing racism, and that she couldn't do that without discussing the Klan. To do otherwise would be to condone their behavior. I think she's right. Can you imagine if a documentary on racism came out of a North Georgia school and the Klan wasn't mentioned in it at all?

I do think Mrs. Ariemma should have used non school hours to do her filming. But that is the worst thing I can see charging her with: poor logistics. She was trying to educate her students about racism, not lynch a student. However, because she used a different method, and because there is an Atlanta activist that needs more money, she may be fired. Not only that, but the county may have to spend money sending city staff, school staff, and sheriff's deputies into sensitivity training. The article didn't say how anyone from the city or the sheriff's office was involved in the original incident, but perhaps the AJC forgot to include that. The AJC also neglected to mention any similar incidents that might show how this was anything other than an isolated case. Finally, the AJC didn't mention this, but I wonder if the Rev. Hutchins plans on selling his services to the city to conduct the sensitivity training.

Eric Holder said we are a nation of cowards when it comes to race. I am starting to wonder if he's correct. There was no racism of any sort mentioned in the AJC story. Yet, a good teacher may lose her job, and a racial activist may make a good some of money from the city. I don't think either of these teaches the children of this particular high school anything about racism. It may teach them that political correctness could cost you your job, even if you are innocent.

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