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When the past is present…

 

A Hug That Earned a Student Suspension

By Rebecca Klein, HuffingtonPost.com

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Sam McNair

A petition for Sam McNair, a Georgia teen suspended from school earlier this month after hugging a teacher, is gaining steam around the Internet.

According to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the school released a statement clarifying that “hearing officers consider witness testimony, a review of the known facts, and a student’s past disciplinary history when determining consequences” in disciplinary issues. The district cannot comment further on a pending case.

While the outlet notes that McNair does have a history of disciplinary misconduct, he has never been punished before for sexual harassment.

ABC News legal anchor Dan Abrams says that he thinks the school’s decision makes sense. “It’s a tough sentence but they say he’d been in trouble before and that’s why he got the stiff sentence,” said Abrams.

McNair’s mother told HuffPost that she is in the process of appealing the decision. The petition, which had over 4,000 signatures on Wednesday afternoon, calls on Gwinnett County Public Schools to overturn McNair’s punishment. According to the Change.org petition, which was started by a Los Angeles woman, “The punishment does NOT fit the violation.”

The high school senior was suspended until next December after a teacher claimed McNair sexually harassed her, according to CBS Atlanta. Video surveillance footage of the incident shows McNair hugging the teacher from behind before she promptly pushes him away. The teacher claims that McNair’s lips and cheek touched her neck, though McNair vehemently denies this, per CBS Atlanta.

hug16k-1-webMcNair, who is a star athlete, told the outlet that he has hugged his teachers in the past but was never disciplined for it. However, the teacher in question said in a discipline report that she had previously warned McNair about inappropriate hugs. (. . .)

According to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the school released a statement clarifying that “hearing officers consider witness testimony, a review of the known facts, and a student’s past disciplinary history when determining consequences” in disciplinary issues. The district cannot comment further on a pending case.

While the outlet notes that McNair does have a history of disciplinary misconduct, he has never been punished before for sexual harassment.ABC News legal anchor Dan Abrams says that he thinks the school’s decision makes sense. “It’s a tough sentence but they say he’d been in trouble before and that’s why he got the stiff sentence,” said Abrams.

McNair’s mother told HuffPost that she is in the process of appealing the decision.

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Santa is White?

By: Russell Contreras, AP.org

A New Mexico high school teacher has been disciplined after a parent says the man told his black son that A different color of ClausSanta Claus is white. Officials at the school in Rio Rancho, about 15 miles north of Albuquerque, announced Friday that the teacher recently was disciplined for his comments to the student, but they declined to say how, KOB-TV reported.

The move came after students at Cleveland High School were told they could come to class dressed as Santa, an elf or a reindeer.Michael Rougier said his ninth-grade son, Christopher, arrived wearing a Santa hat and beard, and the teacher asked the boy: “Don’t you know Santa Clause is white? Why are you wearing that?”

The teacher’s name was not released, and attempts by The Associated Press to reach school officials Saturday were unsuccessful. Michael Rougier said the teacher’s comments enraged him.

“There’s no room for that in the classroom,” he said. “Whether this teacher felt Christopher may have been wearing this out of context, there’s no room for it. There’s just no room for it.” (. . .)images-2

A spokesman for Rio Rancho Public Schools said the Cleveland High School teacher knows he made a “dumb” mistake and has since apologized to the Rougier family.Michael Rougier said he still has concerns.

“If he has that attitude, how is it affecting students, studies, grading habits, trending toward Caucasian kids?” Rougier said of the teacher. (. . .)

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Can Racism Lead to Health Complications for Your Child?

By Janell Ross, TheRoot.com

The big revelations coming out of Emory didn’t stop there. Preterm birth is long understood to have a potential impact on a child’s cognition and language-learning skills. But Michael Kramer, an epidemiologist at Emory’s School of Public Health, examined the birth and school records of thousands of Georgians born between 1998 and 2003. When these children took state academic assessment tests in first grade, those born prematurely were more likely to fail. premature-baby

The more premature the birth, the worse the child performed. Only 13 percent of the babies born on time or less than three weeks early fell short on first-grade tests, compared to a third of the children born 13 to 20 weeks prematurely.

“What we found explains some, but by no means all, of the academic achievement gap,” Kramer said. “There are real differences we can make in education by investing in what happens long before children reach school.”

Kramer’s findings also suggest that since poor minority families often concentrate in sections of a city and therefore send their children to the same set of the nation’s increasingly segregated (by both race and class) schools, children struggling to learn due to a preterm birth aren’t evenly disbursed. Some schools are likely serving large numbers while others, in wealthier communities and those serving mostly white students, may be serving few to none. (. . .)

images-10If poverty and racism are driving preterm birth and later health and learning complications, then reducing the first and eliminating the second become a public health imperative.

“I think that our research may be shocking to a lot of people, but I hope not dispiriting,” said Corwin with Emory. “We have some clue what may be causing disproportionate rates of preterm births in some segments of the population, and we know that we can try to intervene early. The question is really whether that is something that we are prepared as a country to do.”

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Black Teens Arrested While Waiting For the Bus

By Morgan Whitaker, Msnbc.com

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Deaquon Carelock, Raliek Redd and Wan’Tauhjs Weathers

Charges were dropped against three African-American teenagers who said they were waiting for a school bus last week when they were arrested by police. “After reviewing the facts associated with these arrests, I have decided to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice,” said District Attorney Sandra Doorley in a statement Tuesday. The basketball players said they were waiting for a bus in Rochester, N.Y., to take them to a scrimmage when police asked them to leave the area. When 17-year-old Deaquon Carelock and 16-year-olds Raliek Redd and Wan’Tauhjs Weathers pushed back against the officer’s request, saying they were following instructions from their coach, police arrested them. The teens were later charged with two counts of disorderly conduct. (. . .)

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“We tried to tell them that we were waiting for the bus,” Weathers added. “We weren’t catching a city bus, we were catching a yellow bus. He didn’t care. He arrested us anyways.” Police say the teens were obstructing pedestrian traffic and repeatedly ignored orders to disperse, according to a police report obtained by FOX station WROC. Police had been keeping an eye on the area after receiving complaints of loitering from a nearby store. The students’ coach said he had no reason to think they were causing trouble.“My guys were waiting for the bus like they normally do,” Jacob Scott, the student’s basketball coach, said. “I get to the scene after parking my car and three of my guys are handcuffed.”  (. . .)

Jacob Scott

Jacob Scott

“One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown,” Scott said, referring to himself and the other students waiting to attend the scrimmage on a day off from school.

“These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong,” he said of the arrested players. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do.” (. . .)

The teens posted bail, and the case is scheduled for disp(osition). “They are not bad kids,” Raliek Redd’s mother, Crystal Chapman, said. “They are awesome boys. They all have good grades in school. I don’t want them to be profiled at all.”

 

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In Honor of Nelson Mandela

By Jon Gambrell, Ap.org via Huffingtonpost.com

South Africa expects overwhelming crowds and a host of world leaders to attend services honoring late President Nelson Mandela, though with the ceremonies only days away officials acknowledged Saturday they couldn’t offer any specifics yet. Across the country, South Africans already have begun honoring Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95, and officials expect tens of thousands to participate in next week’s official services. In their first statement since Mandela’s death, his family said they had “lost a great man,” just as they had when South Africa’s apartheid government imprisoned him for decades. Mandela

“The pillar of our family is gone, just as he was away during that 27 painful years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us,” said the statement, read by family spokesman Lt. Gen. Themba Templeton Matanzima. (. . .)

Official services honoring Mandela begin Tuesday with a major memorial planned at FNB Stadium on the edge of Johannesburg’s Soweto township. Government Minister Collins Chabane told journalists Saturday he expects massive crowds far beyond what the stadium’s normal 95,000-person capacity could hold. He said there would be “overflow” areas set up.”We can’t tell people not to come,” he said. He couldn’t offer specifics about how crowds would arrive there with all roads to the venue closed by police or who would serve as a master of ceremonies.

Those planning Mandela’s funeral include the former president’s family, the federal government, the military and the African National Congress political party. Despite some prior planning by authorities as Mandela grew frail and suffered bouts of hospitalization in recent years, many of the details remain up in the air. It’s unclear which ceremony world leaders will attend, either Tuesday’s stadium memorial or the planned funeral service Dec. 15 in Qunu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s rural hometown in Eastern Cape Province. Chabane said South African officials briefed diplomats Saturday about the arrangements, though they would leave it to foreign governments to say which event their leaders would attend.

images-8U.S. President Barack Obama and his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, already have indicated they will attend services in South Africa honoring Mandela. Many other world leaders also are expected. Mandela’s body won’t be at the stadium event Tuesday, Chabane said. His body will rest in state Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of government power in South Africa’s capital. Mourners will walk up the steps into the Union Buildings’ amphitheater and file past Mandela’s body, Chabane said. Authorities blocked visitors from visiting the amphitheater Saturday. Chabane said he didn’t know yet whether it would be an open- or closed-casket viewing. (. . .)

Sunday has been declared a national day of prayer and reflection over Mandela’s death. On Monday, South Africa’s two houses of parliament will hold special sessions to pay tribute to Mandela, the country’s first black and democratically-elected president. Tributes to the former anti-apartheid activist continued to pour in from around the globe. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since his country’s independence from Britain in 1980 and supported Mandela’s ANC during its struggle against the apartheid regime, paid his first public tribute to the deceased leader. (. . .)imgres

Hundreds gathered Saturday at Mandela’s house in Houghton. They sang liberation songs and walked past expansive, stately homes carrying bundles of flowers and images of Mandela.

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Free Mandela (from the Prison of Fantasy)!

By Robert Mackey, The Lede in the New York Times

Nelson Mandela boxing in 1953. Mandela stood 6'4" tall.

Nelson Mandela boxing in 1953. Mandela stood 6’4″ tall.

As the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life continues, some writers who lived through the anti-colonial period in Africa have suggested that it is important to make sure the real historical context for his achievements is not obscured by myths that smooth out the rough edges of the recent past.

A good place to start is with a blog post on the London School Economics website written by Thandika Mkandawire, who was jailed for his role in the struggle for the independence of Malawi and spent 30 years of exile. Mr. Mkandawire writes:

In this brief note, I will simply point to the influences the man had on my generation (politically speaking). For much of the last century during which I grew up, Africa was involved in ridding itself of colonialism and racist rule. From the 1960s onwards, the walls of colonial domination crumbled one after another as the colonialists granted independence or simply ran away as did the Belgians while ensuring that King Leopold’s ghost would continue to haunt the heart of Africa that Congo is. And so for my generation, the death of Mandela marks the triumphant end of Africa’s liberation struggle. (…)

Another author dealing with the subject is the South African journalist and New Yorker Tony Karon, who just republished an essay he first posted on his blog in 2005 under the headline, “Free Mandela (From the Prison of Fantasy)!” Mr. Karon’s essay, now titled “Three Myths about Mandela Worth Busting,” begins:

Mandela spent 27 years in prison, then served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison, then served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.

I sometimes feel Nelson Mandela is in need of rescuing, trapped in some pretty bizarre narratives that have nothing to do with his own story or politics. Full disclosure: I freely admit that Nelson Mandela is the only politician for whom I’ve ever voted; that I celebrate him as a moral giant of our age, and that I proclaimed him my leader (usually at the top of my tuneless voice, in badly sung Xhosa songs) during my decade in the liberation movement in South Africa. That’s maybe why the “Mandela” I’ve encountered in so much American mythology is so unrecognizable.

The three myths Mr. Karon sets out to destroy are: that Mr. Mandela was a pacifist; that only his singular personality prevented a race-tinged bloodbath in post-apartheid South Africa; that the struggle against apartheid was itself driven by a kind of black nationalism which allowed no role for white activists(…)

Another of the authors is Alain Gresh, deputy director of Le Monde Diplomatique, who tackled the myth-making around Mr. Mandela in a 2010 article headlined, “When Mandela Wasn’t the Messiah,” that looks at the Cold-War context of the anti-colonial liberation struggles across Africa. (…)

Watch a rare video of Nelson Mandela working in the prison yard in 1977.

For a detailed and thoughtful outlining of  myths and facts, read the full article here.

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Nelson Mandela, South African Icon of Peaceful Resistance, Is Dead

By lgreen, The New York Times

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and an enduring icon of the struggle against racial oppression,

Gone to a Well-Earned Rest, Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

Gone to a Well-Earned Rest, Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

died on Thursday, the government announced, leaving the nation without its moral center at a time of growing dissatisfaction with the country’s leaders.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” President Jacob Zuma said in a televised address on Thursday night, adding that Mr. Mandela had died at 8:50 p.m. local time. “His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him our love.”

Mr Zuma said that South Africa’s thoughts were with Mr. Mandela’s family. “They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free,” he said.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison, then served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.

Mandela spent 27 years in prison, then served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election.

Mr. Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of treason by the white minority government, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990. He led the African National Congress, long a banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994, the first fully democratic election in the country’s history.

Mr. Mandela served just one term as South Africa’s president and had not been seen in public since 2010, when the nation hosted the soccer World Cup. But his decades in prison and his insistence on forgiveness over vengeance made him a potent symbol of the struggle to end this country’s brutally codified system of racial domination, and of the power of peaceful resolution in even the most intractable conflicts.

Years after he retreated from public life, his name still resonated as an emblem of his effort to transcend decades of racial division and create what South Africans called a Rainbow Nation.

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Black Men Arrested for Escorting White Teen

By Christina Ng, ABCnews.com

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Landry Thompson with dance instructor Emmanuel Hurd and dance partner Josiah Kelly

A teenage Oklahoma hip hop dancer is still shaken after her dream trip to a Texas dance studio ended up with her in handcuffs and taken to Child Protective Services and her guardians in police custody. “They had nothing on us,” dance instructor Emmanuel Hurd told ABCNews.com. “Instead of going the route they should have went, they took her to CPS. The only reason someone gave me was we were black and Landry was white.”

Landry Thompson, 13, has been dancing since she was 7. For the past few years, she has dreamed of traveling to Houston to dance with well-known hip hop dancer Chachi Gonzales at Planet Funk Academy. ( . . .)

The three spent the day at the dance academy and taking part in a video shoot. After wrapping and dinner, the exhausted trio stopped at a gas station around 3 a.m. to program their GPS to find their hotel, according to Hurd. He dozed off and awoke to find their car surrounded by police.

“Everything was going amazing. It was a beautiful day …. and then everything went bad,” Hurd told ABCNews.com today.Hurd and Kelly were pulled out of the car and police told them not to worry, they weren’t be arrested, just detained, Hurd said.24117842_BG3

Hurd had forms from Landry’s mother making him her guardian for the duration of the trip, her birth certificate and her insurance card, among other forms, which he said he tried to tell the officers. ( . . .)

Landry’s mom, Destiny Thompson, said she wasn’t surprised by the late-night call because rehearsals often go late into the night, but could tell something was wrong when she heard the commotion in the background and her daughter’s upset voice.

A police officer eventually took Landry’s phone and spoke to her mother.

“He got on the phone and he said, ‘Are you aware your daughter is in Houston, Texas, with two black men?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am aware of that,’” Destiny Thompson told ABCNews.com. “Then he started mumbling stuff about my parenting, why I would let her do that and then he proceeded to tell me the people she was with were intoxicated or on something.” ( . . .)

“[Hurd] is somebody we know well,” she said. “His wife and kids spent the night at my house last night. These are not people that we kind of know. These are close family friends that we trust explicitly with our children. They just happen to be black.”

Hurd said he begged officers from the back of the police car to listen to him. He said one officer said to him, “Sir, you’ve got to understand, you two men are black and she’s white.” (. . .)

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Can We Trust Each Other?

By Connie Cass,  AP.org

We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy – trust in the other fellow – has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling. (. . .) imgres-17

Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists. What’s known as “social trust” brings good things.A society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth. (. . .)

Some studies suggest it’s too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person’s lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war. People do get a little more trusting as they age. But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than those who came before them. The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today’s youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times. (. . .)imgres-18

University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality. Trust has declined as the gap between the nation’s rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They’ve lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth. “People who believe the world is a good place and it’s going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting,” Uslaner said. “If you believe it’s dark and driven by outside forces you can’t control, you will be a mistruster.” African-Americans consistently have expressed far less faith in “most people” than the white majority does. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust.

Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans, in the 2012 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation, felt that “you can’t be too careful.” (. . .)

The decline in the nation’s overall trust quotient was driven by changing attitudes among whites. It’s possible that people today are indeed less deserving of trust than Americans in the past, perhaps because of a decline in moral values.

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Alabama Pardons 3 ‘Scottsboro Boys’ After 80 Years

By Alan Blinder, the New York Times

Samuel Leibowitz, the chief defense attorney, spoke with Haywood Patterson, one of the nine men charged with the rape of two white women on a train, in 1933 in Decatur, Ala. Bettman/Corbis

Samuel Leibowitz, the chief defense attorney, spoke with Haywood Patterson, one of the nine men charged with the rape of two white women on a train, in 1933 in Decatur, Ala. Bettman/Corbis

ATLANTA — More than 80 years after they were falsely accused and wrongly convicted in the rapes of a pair of white women in north Alabama, three black men received posthumous pardons on Thursday, essentially absolving the last of the “Scottsboro Boys” of criminal misconduct and closing one of the most notorious chapters of the South’s racial history.

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously during a hearing in Montgomery to issue the pardons to Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems and Andy Wright, all of whom were repeatedly convicted of the rapes in the 1930s.

“The Scottsboro Boys have finally received justice,” Gov. Robert J. Bentley said in a statement.

Thursday’s vote brought to an end to a case that yielded two landmark Supreme Court opinions — one about the inclusion of blacks on juries and another about the need for adequate legal representation at trial — but continued to hang over Alabama as an enduring mark of its tainted past.(…)

The men were among the group of nine teenagers who were first tried in April 1931 after a fight between blacks and whites aboard a train passing through Jackson County, in Alabama’s northeastern corner, led to allegations of sexual assault. Within weeks of the reported rapes, an Alabama judge had sentenced eight of them to death following their convictions by all-white juries. The trial of the youngest defendant, Roy Wright, ended in a hung jury amid a dispute about whether he should be executed, and he was never retried.

The United States Supreme Court intervened the following year, setting off a long stretch of additional appeals and trials, including one in 1933 where Ruby Bates, one of the accusers, recanted her story.

During an appeal trial, Ruby Bates recanted her accusation of rape against the teenagers. Associated Press

During an appeal trial, Ruby Bates recanted her accusation of rape against the teenagers. Associated Press

Prosecutors dropped the rape charges against five of the men in July 1937, but four others — including those pardoned on Thursday — were convicted again and initially sentenced to death or decades in prison.

State officials ultimately agreed to release three of them on parole, including Clarence Norris, who was pardoned by Gov. George Wallace in 1976. Mr. Patterson escaped from prison and fled to Michigan.

The legal wrangling became a cultural mainstay, the subject of books, songs, television documentaries and even a Broadway production.

But Sheila Washington’s interest in the Scottsboro Boys was born of a less prominent moment: She came across a copy of Mr. Patterson’s memoir in a bedroom when she was 17 years old and vowed to help the men get justice. She later founded the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center and, in 2009, began a campaign to seek pardons for the men, with the backing of researchers and lawyers throughout the state.

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A demonstration included the mothers of the group. NY Daily News Archive, via Getty Images

A demonstration included the mothers of the group. NY Daily News Archive, via Getty Images

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