Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004  

Civil rights news

Manson settles harassment suit

A weird claim of sexual harassment will not go to trial. Why do I say 'weird'? The plaintiff, a man, alleged another male harassed him sexually by touching him in a provocative way. A person can sexually harass someone of the same gender, of course, but the circumstances give me pause.

A civil lawsuit accusing shock rocker Marilyn Manson of sexual assault has been dismissed after the two sides reached a settlement, an attorney for the plaintiff said Tuesday.

Security guard Joshua Keasler was working on the stage during a July 2001 performance in Detroit when Manson allegedly approached him, wrapped his legs around the guard's neck and gyrated against him while wearing only a leather thong and pantyhose.

Keasler sued Manson in U.S. District Court in Detroit for sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

. . ."I can now go on with my life and try to close this unhappy chapter," Keasler said.

Apparently, something that Kessler did not like occurred. He may have been sincerely embarrassed. But, a couple aspects of his claim are not very convincing. Considering the well-established reputation of Manson, it is obvious his goal was to shock, not sexual stimulation. In addition, the lawsuit seemed designed to benefit from the outrage many straight men apparently feel about a come-on from a gay man. Would Kessler have reacted similarly if Madonna touched him? But, considering the way a jury might have responded to Kessler's allegations, I believe Manson was wise to settle.

Manson says he is heterosexual.

Female football player alleges rape

A college that is becoming more famous for scandals in its sports programs than for the teams themselves is featured in allegations of rape by a female former student.

DENVER - A female placekicker says she was raped by a teammate at the University of Colorado four years ago and didn't tell police because she was too frightened - another hit to the scandal-plagued football program.

In reaction, the university announced Tuesday it will hire a special administrator to oversee its athletics department and scandal-plagued football program.  

The accusation by Katie Hnida that she was assaulted in the summer of 2000 is contained in the upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated.  

Three other women have sued the school in federal court, saying they were raped by players or recruits at or after an off-campus party in December 2001.

No assault charges have been filed in those cases, but Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan said in a deposition for one of the lawsuits that she believes the football program uses alcohol and sex to entice recruits. Keenan did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

If Hnida did attempt to have the unnamed man prosecuted, the case against him would likely founder because she did not report the rape promptly. But, reporting sexual harassment or rape in a hostile environment often results in a backlash against the victim, not the alleged perpetrator. The University of Colorado, particularly its sports program, certainly sounds like just such a milieu. Being raped is often a classic Hobson's choice. Tell the truth and suffer further humilation. Keep silent and let the guilty party get away with it.

I don't believe the college's plan to hire a special administrator to watch its sport programs will make any difference. Most likely, the person, whose loyalty will be to the university and its athletics department, will merely sweep allegations like Hnida's under the rug.

Republicans continue alienation campaign

At another school, young Republicans are doing their part to undermine the GOP's claimed efforts to increase interest in their party among racial minorities.

BRISTOL, R.I. -- A student group in Rhode Island says it's protesting affirmative action -- but others say it's fueling racism with a scholarship for whites only.

The group, College Republicans of Roger Williams University, is advertising the $250 scholarship. To get it, the group requires an essay on "why you are proud of your white heritage" and a photo to "confirm whiteness."

The group's president says that language, and the scholarship itself, are parodies of minority scholarships.

Jason Mattera, a recipient of a minority scholarship, says such funding is unfair. Mattera says some white students may be struggling financially but are at a disadvantage because they are perceived as privileged.

His group took out a full-page ad in last week's issue of the university's student newspaper to tout the scholarship, which was for $50 until two donors came forward to add $100 each during the weekend, Mattera said.

Others at the university disagree and are angry about the stunt.

So far, though, the school's administration is staying out of the controversy -- saying simply it does not endorse the scholarship.

I believe these 'bake sales' create hostile environments on college campuses by encouraging white students to hold their nonwhite peers in contempt.

Veteran blogger Trish Wilson addresses the issue in more direct language.

Some right-wingers may not get what's really behind affirmative action, as is evident in the latest bake sale bashing race relations. Do they really want those Jillionaire Rich Right-Wing Idealogues to tell them what they should think? It isn't your Average Joe or Jane who benefits from the right-wing version of affirmative action. Wealthy and Middle-Class White Men primarily benefit the most from affirmative action, if you consider legacies and other benefits passed on via inheritence and the Old Boys Network. Then there are the white women who suck up to white male benefactors, like Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter. The moment you stray from what the White Boys Network expects of you, you are so much trash on the modern midden heap. Midden heaps traditionally display hierarchies in a society, something those who sell out should consider before they follow the road to no return.

I don't know if it is sheer stupidity that leads the Republicans to taunt people of color and mock civil rights even while they claim to be trying to attract minority voters, or, if the claim to want to increase nonwhite support of their party in itself is false.

posted by J. | 11:30 PM

Tuesday, February 17, 2004  

Part I: The end of racism

People unsympathetic to racial justice here in the blogosphere often claim that racism no longer has any real world effect. We can just ignore it, they say. Anyway, a new generation is growing up that will have no memory of the bad old days, right? Their more hostile counterparts claim there is no racism at all or that nonwhites are the ones who are racist. True, the people who say these things often fail to be able to even define racism -- the belief that one racial group is superior to another or others. Instead, they will assert that if someone mentions race, as in the sentence 'I am an Indian,' he is being a racist. Or, the bigot will trot out some bromide about how everyone in his home, city or state is getting along fine except for when black, Indian or Hispanic 'troublemakers' interfere with the status quo. Stories such as this one lead me to believe not only that those people are lying, but that they are passing their racist beliefs on to their children even as they deny holding them.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Four Westside High School students are suspended for promoting a white student for an African-American award.

More than 150 flyers (pictured, below right) were distributed throughout the school Monday. They featured junior Trevor Richards (pictured, left), A South African native who moved to the United States in 1997.

Westside officials say the flyers were were quickly removed because they were inappropriate and insensitive to black students.

Trevor said he is as African as anyone else.

"I had no intent of hurting anyone or offending anyone. I wasn't trying to make a statement. I was just running for the award, but i guess the administration felt differently," Richards said.

Richards was suspended for two days.

Two other students were disciplined for putting up the posters and another student was punished for starting a petition to promote Richards.

I don't believe for a moment that Trevor accidentally entered that competition. Neither do I believe the racists in the blogophere continually 'accidentally' publish bigoted blog entries. One of the worst of them recently made that claim after promoting a site which depicted singer Janet Jackson as a gorilla, and inviting its proprietor to disrupt another weblog's comments with racist ranting. I believe some adult or adults, possibly the boy's parents, who may hold attitudes typical of conservative white South Africans, put him up to it. Their goal was to insult the actual African-American students at that school, creating a hostile environment for them. However, Trevor was coached well. He acknowledges no wrongdoing. Neither would the adults responsible. They might try to shift the blame to the existence of the award or to the school's African-American students themselves. (If you all would just stop existing, we would not feel compelled to harass you.) The blogger described previously tried to shift the blame for his actions to politician Al Sharpton, among others.

I must address what you are thinking at this point: Ms. Blogger, obviously, someone like the fellow you are describing is crazy. Some mental health professionals believe that racism is one of the behaviors that people with obsession-related mental illnesses latch on to. But, most people with a pathological obsession with 'race' are not in asylums, so we must address them as a component of our everyday lives.

I think the discipline Trevor and his co-conspirators were subjected to is appropriate for children who behaved in a discriminatory, hurtful manner. They have been informed that not all adults want them to harass their minority classmates. At the very least, they will now know racism is not monolithic. I am glad the school's administrators did not dismiss the incident as child's play because that underestimates the potency of racism.

Racism is bold, callous, and without a conscience. This great wrong actually believes that it ultimately has right on its side.

But, what is to be done when grown men and women engage in much more abusive behavior and deny they have done anything wrong? In school and work environments, I believe some form of education should be tried first. If there are subsequent incidents, sanctions and insistence on a mental health examination that might identify obsessive behavior focused on race is in order. If the egregious actions continue, the person should be expelled or fired. But, here on the Internet, our ability to influence the behavior of others is very limited. So, my suggestions are modest. If you encounter racist behavior in the blogosphere or at other forums, I hope you will:

•Post a definition of racism and describe how the offender's behavior fits it. (Don't let him redefine it into something it is not, such as merely mentioning race.)

•Emphasize that harm is occurring, in that people in the audience are being hurt by the racist behavior.

•Refuse to let the offender scapegoat his behavior on to the victim or third parties.

Most important of all: Do not remain silent. Speak up even if it is just to say, 'I disagree.' When I observe white bloggers remaining silent while minority bloggers are belittled and abused, it makes me wonder if they are really opposed to what is occurring. Because of historical truth, I think most minority group members are doubtful of a white person's lack of racism unless they see proof of it. In fact, I changed my mind about adding some bloggers to my blogroll this week because I observed them ignore a vicious attack by a racist on a blog. If you don't oppose racism when you actually see it occurring, you are a wimp and I don't want you on my team.

Let's backtrack to the harm caused by racist behavior. The blogger we are using as our specimen here would either deny his bigotry causes pain or mock the pain he has caused. However, racist incidents have a cumulative degenerative effect on the people on the receiving end.

Whites do not begin to know the effort it takes for Blacks to subdue their true feelings about the racial pain they incur, even in work situations, where it may appear that the relationships are collegial and compatible. Generational fear provides the protective, defensive kindness that "sugar-coats" feelings. In this way the blunted comments that come out of the mouths of Blacks are not the same as the sharply edged thoughts kept on check in the inside that cut so deeply into the self-esteem of the psyche. This has proven to be hazardous behavior for Blacks; the evidence of stress-caused illnesses is only now coming to the fore— the expense of enduring the hurt rather than expelling or dissipating it on the offender.

The claim no one is being harmed is a lie and a particularly evil one.

Am I naive enough to believe I can 'solve' racism in our society or even in a small place like the blogosphere? No. Not remotely. But, being unable to solve a problem does not mean we have to let it fester. Someone spoke up about what was occurring at Trevor's school. That person was most likely a child. If a kid can do the right thing when he observes racism, can't you?

posted by J. | 5:15 AM