Student not black enough to win African American student award

So I guess to qualified to win the African American student award it doesn’t matter if you are African American. This school is totally racist.
http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_np=0&u_pg=1640&u_sid=981030

This is craziness. If they don’t think the kid is black enough to win, just don’t let him win…I don’t see why suspending him is necessary. For what–being white?

And second of all…this just seems like a REALLY creepy type of award. An award for black kids? It seems uber-patronizing to me…you know, kind of like, “Good Negro, good for you, working within the system, receiving the kudos of the White Man ™.”

And what’s the cut off for black? Two black parents? What about mixed kids? Really light skinned students? Where does it end?

Not quite sure what point Pepsi Classic is trying to make here…

But my reaction is that this is yet another instance in which using the phrase “African American” to mean “black” because “black” is perceived as offensive is just idiotic.
But the students who plastered campus with these posters are being idiots. Yes, the phrase “African American”, if interpreted as two individual words, would mean an American from Africa, which a white South African would qualify as. Good job of deducing that! How clever! You certainly have shown up the stodgy administration as the racist assclowns that they are! You’re right up there with Nathan Hale in the legions of great American revolutionary thinkers! Perhaps next you can apply your skills of over-literality and sort out that whole driveway/parkway dilemma!

Those students should get the Nobel Peace prize. And the Chemistry prize, too, just for consolation.

Really, it’s an idiotic distinction made for idiotic reasons to appease idiots. Fuckers should be taken to court on discrimination charges. Poor kid, getting disenfranchised like that…

The phrase African American, while suffering from a number of problems, does have a fairly clear meaning in the U.S. Trevor would, in normal parlance, be more appropriately identified as a “South African American” and he and his buddies knew, in advance, that this prank, launched on the MLK weekend, would raise hackles. Is a two-day suspension too harsh? Probably. But this is high school where administrators have to “make a show” of any disciplinary efforts in which they engage.

More to the point: why is there a “Distinguished African American Student Award” in that school to begin with? Is it sponsored by an outside group? Is there “Distinguished White Student Award”? A “Distinguished Hispanic American Student Award”? A “Distinguished East Asian American Student Award”? A “Distinguished Native American Student Award”?

What is the purpose and intent of the award?

Well, I agree that Trevor is far more truly African than native-born black Americans from Omaha, but there’s a couple of things that go against him; first of all, it doesn’t say what the criteria are for winning this award (and do they give something to the Italian kids on Columbus Day and the Mexican ones on Cinco de Mayo or what?) and why he deserves it to begin with, and secondly there’s only 70 black kids out of a couple of thousand, it’s kind of insensitive to blanket the school with posters. A forthright letter to the school paper or a discussion with the faculty who gives the award would have been better tactics if they were serious; since they went the stealth-poster route, it sounds like they might be trying to stir up trouble rather than help an unjustly overlooked kid.

And I do think that Africa is a geographical place, not a skin color, and that if somebody like my neighbor born in El Salvador should be called an American after gaining citizenship, surely someone born on the continent with perhaps a couple of generations pedigree there can call himself an African. Saying that somebody’s skin color makes them less a citizen of some African country is the same kind of junk the folks who started apartheid used to pull. Trevor would have been a child when Nelson Mandela was freed-let him be what he wants to be.

While I agree that these kind of awards, which once served a useful purpose, are now becoming anachronistic and counter-productive. I also think the kids who plastered the posters everywhere were engaging in some obnoxious race-baiting with no sincere intent except to mock black people. I don’t feel sorry for them.

Are now becoming or have now become? IOW, would you agree that the award should be eliminated?

tomndebb: Although not entirely, clear, it would appear that this is a school sponsored award:

Maybe the award could be redefined. I think there is still some value in reaching out to disenfranchised socio-economic groups but I wouldn’t oppose redefining the criteria.

You know, I could easily see myself as one of those “delinquent” students. A bit of a lark in challenging the establishment about such a discriminatory award.

But if only the school had looked away and allowed this boy to petition for and receive this award with dignity. I see an opportunity to bring people together rather than divide them. Even a white South African takes pride in his African heritage, which can go back 300 years.

There is a possibility that disrespect for the award may be shown to hurt the black students, and that is when disciplinary measures should be taken.

Can you give an example of how it could be redefined in such a way that it would not exclude white students? I think that is the key issue. Are you saying that it could be redefined as an award for the best poor (poor as in poverty) student, regardless of race? That would seem to be even more problematic.

I wonder how this “prank” would have been more percieved if the kid had not been a “white” South African, but a “brown” Egyptian.

Perhaps if the award took the form of a scholarship based on merit + need?

I really don’t have that strong of a feeling about it. I can see that these kinds of awards may be anachronistic but I don’t feel outraged about it. I don’t feel as though I’m being robbed or victimized in any way. I’m not going to campaign to keep these awards but they’re not keeping me up nights either.

While I can’t help but admire the charitable spirit of this statement, I just can’t believe that in this case the motive was anything but deliberately courting controversy.

Well, Egyptians aren’t all that brown for the most part, but I know what you mean. IMO, the folks who started this whole business of insisting on the term “African-American” instead of “black”, though they doubtlessly meant well, did the cause of racial equality a great disservice. It just clouds the issue with all these ridiclulous semantic arguments.

I don’t see why anyone should be offended by this gesture. Sure it was a provocative move, but offensive? No.

Furthermore, I think it was an inspired protest that I hope will start a worthy and valid debate – a debate that would never have happened if the South African kid had simply submitted his name on some form and had his nomination tossed in the trash with not a peep from the administration.

All the black kids who claimed to be “offended” should study the civil rights protests of the 60’s. They succeeded largely because people stood up to insist that colorblind laws be enforced as written, not based on age-old unspoken biases that had gone unchallenged for generations. The kids that campaigned for Trevor are asking for the same consideration. If Trevor does not measure up academically (or whatever “distinguished” means) he should not get the award. Fine. But is he qualified as an “African-American”? Yes. (As an Egyptian kid would be, btw.) If they want to give it to only black kids they should publicly change the qualifications.

FREE THE WESTSIDE FOUR!! Where do I contribute?

I agree that it’s not a huge deal compared to other problems we have in this country. But it does bother me more than a bit that the school administrators don’t see this as the no-brainer that it is: Kill the damn award and treat all students the same.

This isn’t a bunch of black kids wanting to form an after-school African-American club (which would, of course, have to be open to whites as well), but the school administrators specifically dividing the student body by race.

First of all, I wonder what on grounds was the student suspended? It’s not that I have a huge amount of sympathy for the kids that put up the posters, using myself as a teenager as a guide, I would hazzard a guess that the motives were more mischevious than stemming from an honest concern about the race issue in America today, but what rule did they break? Far more importantly, what does it say about the state of race issues in America when an immigrant from Africa is deemed unworthy of receiving an award that is specifically for “African-Americans”, simply because of his skin color? If this incident dosen’t point out the absurd geometric shapes we’ve pretzeled ourselves into, trying to ensure equality between people of different skin tones by seperating people into groups defined by their skin tone, what will? Intended or not, I say “bravo” to the kids for finding a dramatic way to point out that the Emperor is wearing no clothes.

Could be that this is std punishment for anyone putting up that many posters around the school w/o authorization. I doubt the school has a policy that just lets kids do this. But it does seem a bit extreme to suspend them.

Of course, the kids could have petitioned the administration to include Trevor and called up one of the conservative talk-radio shows to give them air time and embarrass the administrators. Or they could have petitioned Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to come and demonstrate on their behalf. Well, maybe that second suggestion is a bit unrealistic… :slight_smile:

This is not “race baiting” (as someone said). It is “PC baiting”.

What if the poster child for this campaign was not a white South African kid but a black Jamaican kid?

Would the school administration still be seeking a suspension?

Does a Jamaican black qualify as “African-American” while a white South Africaner does not?

Would anyone be talking about this if the student had not protested?

This seems like an extremely successful political statement made by a few high-school students. Kudos to them for step one of a campaign: making your issue known!

I agree with the first sentence to an extent. The school could side-step the semantic issue of “African-American” by renaiming this a Black Achievement award. But that still leaves the issue open as to whether or not the award should even exist. The article also gives no indication that the kids protesting wanted to get rid of the award or just wanted to play the semantic game.

But I have no doubt that a Black Jamaican kid would qualify in the eyes of the administrators and there would not have had to be a protest. The award is assuming that “Black African Ancestory” = victim regardless of the route to American taken by the person of “BAA”.

As a white South African American, I have heard this type of stuff bandied around for years. When I was in school, it was always rumoured that the less intellectually endowed South African students in the magnet programs were there because they wrote in African American. Similarly, I knew many one- or two-generation Argentinian and Mexican Jews who wrote in Hispanic.

We have a relatively large population of South Africans here (mostly Jews, many who are doctors or children of doctors attracted in the late 1970s to the medical center here, from families of relative wealth and privelege). Since I grew up during the bad times of apartheid, my family was very quick not to draw attention to the fact that we were only a few years removed from being citizens of privelege in perhaps the most racist regime in the country.

I always suspected that now that apartheid is a thing of the past, this would rise to a head. It is still total idiocy and IMHO mocks the struggle of the African American here and the African in South Africa. In my book, he is a big asshat. Even if you don’t agree with affirmative action or these scholarships, I frown upon actions which mock the civil rights struggle and the still-present racism in today’s society. YMMV.

I’ll step up to the PC plate and say that as words like “Afro-American” and “Black” have accrued negative connotations, they have been discarded for more neutral terms. Even if you don’t perceive the negativity, people of that group feel uncomfortable. It is not our right to dictate when others are feeling uncomfortable, even if it makes little sense to people outside the group sometimes. Why not make a small (if illogical) effort to make everyone happy?