Monday, August 30, 2010

The King Has No Clothes?

The Oppressed becomes the Oppressor.

No mention of the black Civil Rights struggles of the nineteen-fifties and sixties is complete without a reference to the bravery and determination of the Little Rock Nine. For those unfamiliar with the story, the Little Rock Nine were the first African-American students to attempt enrollment in the segregated Little Rock High School in 1957. The images of the mass of white students shouting racial abuse at them as they enter the school have become  almost iconic and are a  portent of the abuse they would experience throughout the ensuing school year.

In the year following their enrollment the nine faced continual and repeated harrassment as well as physical abuse and intimidation. One of the nine, Minnie Jean Brown Trickey , after enduring repeated harrassment and abuse was suspended and subsequently expelled for calling one of her tormentors "white trash". Carlotta Walls Lanier was spat on and regularly harrassed by white students. The studious and quiet Jefferson A. Thomas was heavily targeted by bullies. Gloria Cecilia Ray Karlmark was especially targeted by bullies and was jostled, pushed and physically intimidated by white students. Melba Patillo Beals had acid thrown into her face. All of the nine faced daily harrowing abuse, bullying, physical intimidation and violence. All the while the Administrative and teaching staff  permitted the violence to continue unabated.

Because of their endurance and bravery, the story of the Little Rock Nine has empowered subsequent generations of the dispossessed and disempowered. All of the nine went on to be successfull in their fields and themselves became community activists. How painful, then, must be the realization that one of the main lessons learned by some of the heirs to the struggle for equality is how to be oppressors.

It's something of a clichè to write that history repeats itself, yet, the ongoing violence and harrassment of Asian students at the hands of the descendants of the Civil Rights movement in South Philly High school proves that this age-old wisdom is sometimes true. As readers may know, the Asian student body at South Philly High School has been involved in an ongoing judicial struggle to have their grievances appropriately addressed by school authorities, who have so far apparently pursued a policy of denial and dishonesty in order to avoid upholding the civil (and human) rights of their Asian students. At the school, students of Asian descent have reported repeated racial baiting, harrassment, intimidation and physical violence all under the watchful indifference of school staff.

It's therefore the greatest irony that Federal investigators have found merit in the complaints of the Asian student body on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The similarities in the experiences of the Little Rock Nine and the Asian students are remarkable. Just like the Little Rock Nine, the Asian students at South Philly want to better themselves through education and hard work. Unfortunately, also like the Little Rock Nine, the Asian student body is being abused by an ignorant group of students whose violence and intimidation has been (allegedly) repeatedly ignored by school authorities. Sadly, on the anniversary of King's speech that inspired oppressed people throughout the world, the heirs to his legacy have been called to address their own oppression of a weaker minority.

Does the King still have clothes?


H/T Masir Jones at Destroy & Rebuild


  1. I almost found this post funny. I did laugh. But then I thought, omg, he's serious.

    You're actually comparing the amazing groundbreaking, revolutionary struggles of the little rock nine and black folks in the civil rights movement to some asian kids in philly.

    Where to begin?

    - There were laws preventing blacks from attending schools in certain areas. There are no laws preventing asians from attending any school, including this one. Hence, there is no meaningful comparison that exists (besides the one in your head) between true civil rights pioneers and these asian students who, trust, will never be civil rights leaders going out on a limb for a cause. The Little Rock Nine were facing MASSIVE discrimination and a long history that made their efforts and presence at that school truly revolutionary. These Asian kids are not on this level. They are not going to school where everyone is against them. You're silly for making such a statement.

    -These kids and their parents could (theoretically) also pick up and move anywhere and attend any school. The blacks could not because of laws that were on the books preventing them from moving anywhere or going to school anywhere.

    - Asian history in this country is completely different from black people and I'm so over people like you trying to make it seem like you guys had/have this incredible struggle when it comes to race in the U.S. You don't/haven't. K?

    I'm not saying the black kids should be beating the Asian kids. But, one would think you'd be able to make your point without such inane (and condescending) comparisons to the civil rights movement.

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for your post. I never said that it’s exactly the same or that they’re facing the same degree of prejudice. Yet, there are definitely strong similarities between the experiences of the Little Rock Nine and the Asian students at South Philly. The fact that you don’t seem to like this fact is neither here nor there.

    As Federal investigators report, there is evidence of abuse against the Asian students – something that the administration has repeatedly tried to deny and, according to some reports, allegedly obstructed justice. If true, this is a clear case of institutional racism. White students in Little Rock were empowered by the indifference of the teaching and administration staff, just like the oppressors ate South Philly. Sorry, but those are the facts.

  3. east asian justiceOctober 7, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    @ anonymous. get over yourself you sound like some jealous supremacist. jealous because asians have it better. even though some of us dont, and people being people, do you fucking know what hardships we have been through as individuals? no. so shut the fuck up. supremacist because you have no empathy towards what is a clear racist attack in a highschool against a bunch of kids who just wanted to go to school. i dont know whether you are black or white but you are 100% bigot. so just watch it. karma has a nasty way of dealing out its justice.

    @ben - i read about this in the news too. at least there was the asian awareness team,( name escapes me) that came to the rescue, despite being a 2 person team and gave these kids a voice to speak out.2nd gen Japanese lady i think runs it. anyway, its good they got to voice their opinion.hope this shit never happens again.