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SOA Controversy - Black And White
6/5/2013 4:02:22 PM

By Barney Blakeney 

I got the call just as I was trying to figure a topic for this column. The guy was concerned that perhaps not enough has been said about the Black teenage girl, a student at the School of the Arts, who was the subject of a racially tinged tweet by a white schoolmate.

A few weeks ago the white girl’s tweet went public revealing that she had used the N-word (nigger) in an enraged rant referencing the Black girl. I haven’t followed the controversy closely. It at first seemed too much a spat among teenage girls. Then somebody jump started the N-word issue. 

Immediately the focus fell on how the white girl should be punished. I thought that was stretching things. 

Personally, I have no problems with the use of the N-word. I’m a writer, a word is a tool and a tool is only as important as its use. So I didn’t flinch at the white girl’s use of the term. I flinched at the thought she meant it in a derogatory sense, and thus harbored racist attitudes. 

The white girl’s apparent racist connotation in using the term prompted some severe consequences for her - no prom, no graduation participation. The caller I spoke with the other day thinks there were consequences for the white girl’s target as well. 

Again, I wasn’t really that interested. I didn’t think it was fair that something the white girl said privately, away from school, was cause for school officials to take action. But I was disturbed that here was a young white girl who displayed racist attitudes. 

It bothers me that another generation of young people will carry our racism into the future. I guess it’s unrealistic of me, but I wish that the racism thing could end abruptly with one generation. The reality is young people are taught by old people and us old folks are some piss poor teachers. 

Anyway, a friend called to say he thought that all the attention has been centered on the white girl and what she was facing, but not enough attention was given the impact of all that crap on the Black girl. 

Some folks said the only reason the incident got any attention at all is because the Black girl is the daughter of a big wig with the Charleston County School District. I’m thinking that probably has some merit. 

But as my friend noted, that Black girl has some serious issues to face no matter who is her mother. Being a minority among an overwhelming majority comes with issues. If you’re in an unwelcome minority, the issues get real complicated. 

White folks never send their kids into a minority situation. I guess because white folks always had the best stuff, Black folks had no choice but to send their kids into minority situations. 

I’m tempted here to argue that there’s some kind of Karma about Black kids suffering adverse consequences when their parents settle for getting their kid in good places rather that fighting to make all places we send our kids good places. But that distracts me from my point. 

My partner was right. While this community went all ape stuff over how the white girl was punished, or threatened with punishment because she ended up attending both her prom and graduation, no one talked about the mental and emotional stress the Black girls faces. 

I remember an episode of the old “Facts Of Life” television show about a group of girls at a prestigious private school. One student was ‘Tootie’, the only Black girl on the show.

Aside from being Black at a time when Blacks often were not favorably portrayed on television, Tootie’s character was strange - she always was shown wearing roller skates - as if she just couldn’t be a normal kid. 

In the episode I remember, Tootie told her group of white friends how displaced she felt always being the only Black girl. I’ll never forget that sequence because I often relate to it.

I know how it feels to be the only one in the group. Sure you’re treated kindly, and usually, in friendship. But there’s always that feeling that you’re apart, different.

Maybe some situations really are free of the racism I know and those that the girls at the School of the Arts experience. But if the current clamour over the Cherrios commercial featuring the interracial couple with the biracial kid is any indication, we’re not there yet. 

I heard Cherrios is getting a lot of flak over featuring a Black man, his white wife and their biracial daughter. You’d think with all the biracial people featured on television nowadays, that would be a non-issue. 

Frankly, my problem is it’s getting to the point where biracial folks are America’s substitute for Black folks in the integration equation. 

But back to the Black girl at the School of the Arts, my friend wants you to chin up. He knows it’s tough being a minority in that community as well as in your own Black community - a smart Black kid is a Black kid who wants to be white, some say. 

Don’t let any of them fools get you down, he said. Just stay strong and do what you gotta do to get where you’re trying to go. Keep your head up and don’t stop. Later, kid. 

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