Sunday, June 20, 2010

South Philly and lessons from the Jena 6.

The API Movement blog recently wrote an update on the latest obfuscations of the South Philly School District who are engaging in an apparent campaign of deceit in an attempt remedy their tarnished image and stave off criticisms of their (lack of appropriate) handling of ethnic violence in South Philly High School. Here is the API story, read it and weep.

It's rare to see institutionalized racism against Asians so blatant and transparent as we are witnessing from the goons of the South Philly administration and teaching staff. These are the people who have the responsibility to raise the next generation to be productive citizens, and the bearers of the torch of American freedom and democracy. Given their evident dishonesty, and criminal indifference in upholding the civil rights and safety of our children (both Asian and black) it seems more likley that  they are working hard to raise the next generation of criminals and racists.

It is ominous in the extreme to realize that South Philly administrators and teachers apparently seem completely comfortable with ignoring any sense of morality and feel empowered to ignore apparent criminal violence amongst their student body. Worse still is the apparent willingness to obstruct the process of justice by destroying reports describing the continuing violence.

While this case (and others like it, remember Lafayette?) has met with a strong response from Asian civil rights groups and local advocacy groups, and has been reported by several Asian-American bloggers, the case has remained a largely local affair. Could it be that the staff and administration of South Philly are empowered by the fact that advocacy for our kids in the school has been allowed to be contained within a relatively small geographical area, and has similarly met with relatively little national attention even from Asian-Americans?

Compare, for instance, the case of the so-called “Jena 6” in Louisiana. Briefly, six African-American high school students had been arrested for beating a white student amidst rising racial tensions and confrontations at their school. The subsequent arrests of the six, gave rise to outrage and accusations of racial injustice by civil rights groups and black advocacy groups. The outcry against this perceived racial injustice became a national phenomenon. Most notable was a rally on the day one defendant was to be sentenced that was attended by around 20,000 people – this in a town of less than 3,000. Thousands of demonstrators had been bussed in for the rally and several local demonstrations of support took place around the country. The message was loud and clear; the Jena 6 were not alone and the nation was watching.

The lesson here is clear. The Asian-American community doesn’t seem to realize that it is being outmaneuvered and contained by a South Philly staff that is motivated to keep the status quo and uphold the institution of anti-Asian racism in the American public school system. By allowing the problem to be contained and localized we are disempowering our activists. Why aren’t there more rallies of support across the nation? Where are the letter writing campaigners? Surely if we can muster the motivation to act on a national scale over issues such as media stereotyping, and whitewashing of Asian characters, we can also find the motivation to rally in support of our kids miles away in South Philly.

There are numerous Chinatowns and Asian enclaves throughout the U.S.A - I urge Asian-Americans to take up their banners, and march peacefully through your local Chinatown and help draw attention to this injustice being committed against our children.

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