Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Standing Against Racism

Crowd on the North Common standing against racism

About 150 people showed up on the North Town Common this evening (the part of the common in front of Town Hall) to show support for Carolyn Gardner, a teacher of color who was targeted by racist graffiti left in Amherst Regional High School rest rooms.

Sonji Johnson-Anderson (Carol Gardner's sister) speaks to the crowd 

It was a good showing of a broad cross section of Amherst: young, old, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, men and woman (and a few dogs).  Although the perp who left the messages probably was not in the crowd.

Ms Gardner did return to teaching today for the first time in two weeks, so hopefully the schools have figured out how to prevent a recurrence of the disturbing cowardly behavior.

video

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

If she's out of school for two weeks because someone wrote something nasty about her, I have to wonder how she would respond in an actual emergency. Is she qualified to be supervising children?

What if -- heaven forbid -- one of these lockdowns wasn't a Chicken Little episode and she needed to be the mature adult? Could she do it?

Anonymous said...

Oh this will go a long way to stop racism. The equivalent of making it rain by putting up an umbrella. That's because it always rains and we'll always have racism, even in the world of Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Why is this one teacher a target? Their are many other black teachers in the school that have not gotten messages. Their are also white, hispanic, and asian teachers as well, I have never heard of any of them getting any messages. But just this one teacher seems to be the target of bad words. Their has to be more of a reason then just color. I don't think the use of any bad names is good. But again why this one teacher out of tons of teachers. I really think their is more to this then we are being told or anyone is being told. Anon 6:37pm has a good point, how would she handle or could she handle an actual emergency in the school?

Anonymous said...

Some knuckle head student writes graffiti ona bathroom wall and all of a sudden the entire town of amherst and the entire school community is painted as racist. Only in Amherst. Sometimes I really hate living in this town. Where was the uproar when a white student was bullied by a black student? Have they started expelling all the kids using the N word yet? White and black?

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, Productive Members Of Society Were Working At Jobs

Larry Kelley said...

Now, now. The rally started at 5:30 p.m. (I was just quick to publish)

Anonymous said...

I'm Sorry But I'm Getting Sick And Tired Of All Of This Racisim Rally Crap In Amherst. The More Attention It receives The More This Woman Will Be Flapping Her Gums To Her Lawyer. Amherst Leaders, Better Get A Good Lawyer, She Will Be Sueing The school, For Reparations.

Anonymous said...

Don't you know, the Amherst school system says that blacks can't be racist, only whites. And yes this is not about color, it's about this teacher. She has issues and it happens that color was the attribute brought out when the students decided to say enough of her ways.

Bet said...

Anonymous folks sure have no problem saying a whole lot of rude and problematic stuff. My name is Beth Mattison (not anonymous) and I've lived in the Amherst area since 1984 (i.e.: most of my life). This one incident that anonymous is referring to (and implying that everyone's over reacting to) is unfortunately one of many things that has happened. There are ongoing, long standing issues in Amherst that have not been adequately dealt with for many years (ever). Perhaps it's the "straw that broke the camel's back" and residents who don't know that there's racism in Amherst can take the opportunity to do some listening and learning. These personal attacks are offensive --especially when done anonymously.

Anonymous said...

White people don't have a lock on racism. Racism is color blind. People of color can also be racist. Let's not forget that fact.

Anonymous said...

This too shall pass.

Anonymous said...

I thought long and hard about responding to the comments here which, for the most part, indicate that almost all the earlier posters just don't get it. There's just too much here to reply to everyone individually, so let's just take a few examples.

First, let's get some facts straight: Anon 6:37, it isn't simply that someone wrote "something nasty about her." She was attacked in a verbally violent manner using language that was physically threatening on more than one occasion. In addition, she had tires flattened on her car and screws removed from a chair in her class room so that she would fall down when she sat in it.

Second, Anon 6:56 and 8:03, how do you know there "has to be more of a reason than just color?" That's just speculation on your part. Also just because YOU have never heard of other teachers getting messages, doesn't mean it hasn't happened. Did it ever occur to you that others who have been threatened were silenced and did not speak up as Ms. Gardner did? Anon 8:03, where's your evidence that "she has issues?" If you know something you can prove, then why not just provide the evidence instead of your character assassination?

Third, Anon 7:33, you're "Getting Sick And Tired Of All Of This Racisim Rally Crap In Amherst crap?" Really! How do you think it feels to be the target of racism? Fun and Games? As Beth Mattison said, racism in Amherst has been long standing and often swept under the rug. Like her, I've been here a long time (32 years)and I've personally witnessed a pattern of racist comments and behavior by other white people throughout that time and up to the present moment. It seems to me you've got a lot of gall to complain about people speaking out against injustice.



Rene Theberge

Anonymous said...

But again why this one teacher out of tons of teachers. I really think there is more to this then we are being told or anyone is being told.

Why isn't this happening to the other teachers of color? Racists -- by definition -- don't make distinctions between people beyond racial ones -- a real racist would be harassing everyone who is Black.

And there are a lot of folk in so-called "pink collar" jobs where they have neither the security nor power of a teacher -- folks like secretaries & lunch ladies -- none of those women are Black? None?

Racists are bullies, bullies pick on the weak, and there are a lot of people weaker than teachers in that school system. This doesn't add up...

Anon 6:37pm has a good point, how would she handle or could she handle an actual emergency in the school?

Or could she create it? I don't like that thought but it isn't just students who "snap."

Dr. Ed said...

Beth, there are what -- a dozen, maybe more -- other Black employees in the school? I'm not talking just teachers but coaches, women working in the office, etc.

Mary Custard comes to mind - I know some other Black women who used to work there, I think they still do, and the question is why is only Carolyn Gardner being harassed?

Beth, racists simply aren't bright enough to see beyond the color of someone's skin - they wouldn't just be harassing just one woman.

And in the category of "nasty/hateful words being written on walls" -- not "racism" but a specific (criminal) thing -- is it happening to anyone else?

So if it isn't happening to anyone else Beth, why isn't it? Why do you think it isn't? Remember what a racist is -- a knuckle-dragging troglodyte who isn't bright enough to recognize people as individuals.

Anonymous said...

The rank speculation, the delusions, the unfounded assumptions, the hate-filled rhetoric, the terrible reasoning.....sometimes you just have to look away from the comments on this blog.

Look away, Rene. It's not worth your time.

Anonymous said...

There is a huge conflict of interest in having the anon tip info going to the Deans. Mary Custard has already shown bias in dealing with racial and bullying issues.

Anonymous said...

I hope she used personal time or vacation for the time off or does this qualify for workman's comp?

Anonymous said...

If I was a white student I would not report anything to Mary Custard. She has already shown her racist attitudes against white people.

Michael Hootstein said...

I applaud Larry for having the community loving courage to post "Standing Against Racism" to honor "Carolyn Gardner, a teacher of color who was targeted by racist graffiti." This blog provides us the only opportunity to have an honest, open discussion about racial conflict in Amherst. Our school children are currently suffering the catastrophic consequences of our historic failure to heal festering Amherst wounds. Shame on us! While I'm troubled by comments on this blog that are unfairly demeaning to Ms. Gardner, I'm more troubled by the voiced experiences of my friends of color who tell me white liberals (as compared to conservatives)are the primary perpetrators of unlawful discrimination in the Amherst Regional schools and community.

Anonymous said...

The racism and bias goes both ways. The awards nights for Latino and African American kids contributes to it. What about our Asian community? Time to stop this blatant separation by race if you want all to live as one.

Anonymous said...

White liberals are everything that is wrong with this country. In regards to race they speak out of two sides of their mouth. They gladly elected a black president and yet most of them have no black friends or know anything about the black culture in this country. Given the chance and the right situation they'll show their true colors. And when they hide it, they always have their children to show us what they have learned at home, yes quite a different presentation that what their parents preach.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/history/features/2014/the_liberal_failure_on_race/how_the_left_s_embrace_of_busing_hurt_the_cause_of_integration.html

Anonymous said...

Now who's over-generalizing, Michael Hootstein? White liberals are the racists? All white liberals? Some white liberals? How about white conservatives? How about black liberals? Let's take Mary Custard for example. She let a white student be bullied to the extent that he, in desperation, posted the I'm taking a gun to school post on the FB confessions page. Where is the uproar about that?

I still want to know if the schools have expelled anyone of any color for saying the N word yet.

Michael Hootstein said...

Anon 10:36,
Respectfully, I didn't call anybody a racist. I just reported what my friends of color keep telling me. In support of your second point, I "uproar" in my belief that Ms. Custard and Ms. Mazur should be jointly held accountable for their unlawful, student-endangering conduct directed at the white student and his school employee father.

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to stand up to acts of cowardice and foolishness. It's another to state that there is INSTITUTIONALIZED racism within the school system in Amherst. That is where things get absurd. Apparently those who cry institutionalized racism don't truly understand the meaning of the word "institutionalized" -- which means ": to cause (a custom, practice, law, etc.) to become accepted and used by many people : to establish (something) as an institution." The real shame of it all is that time, effort, and resources may be going to fight this "institutionalized" strawman that doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Very simple, if you keep talking about how groups are different, keep separating people because they are different, have events for one group or another over the masses, preach how everyone is the same even as children see they are not, you are contributing to racism and the further separation of people.

Anonymous said...

Imaginary racism keeps people fired up, keeps crusaders employed, and keeps agitators moving toward their goal of destabilizing the community, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and reinforcing the local cabal who comprise the Amherst race-war power structure .

Mary Custard, Russ Vernon Jones, et als: I don't buy it and I cast off my assigned portion of the "shared guilt."

Anonymous said...

I strongly ditto Anon 1:09.

michael Burkart said...

We clearly have a lot of definitions of what racism and institutionalized racism mean.

There are at least three different levels at which people can respond negatively to someone who is different from them.

There is the individual level where anyone can react negatively to someone who is different. At this level (often called prejudice, bigotry) everyone has an equal opportunity to be nasty to someone else. No one is exempt. Prejudice exists among all groups (not the same as saying everyone in that group has prejudice. There is a lot of evidence that everyone does have some prejudice towards people of some group.

At another level, people band together to act in concert to deny others access or resources. historically, the federal government, the banks and realtors acted to deny blacks (and Jews in many cases) the ability to either buy in a new suburb or get a loan to fix a house. The term redlining derives from the actual red lines on city maps indicating places where banks would not make loans or give mortgages. It takes legislation to make this illegal. This is often call discrimination and laws make it illegal for people to do this on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. Until recently, it was still legal to do so based on sexual orientation.

A larger level is that of institutions where there are practices and policies which advantage one group over another. At this level you have racism (sexism, heterosexism, etc). It takes an institution to do this. Anyone who carries out the practices of such an institution, is carrying out racism. A person of color who carries out these practices is also carrying out racism against people of color.

In this country it is quite difficult to find companies, governments (state, county, local), universities, and media that are set up b people of color with policies and practices that disadvantage whites on a consistent and wide-scale way.

Okay, what is your definition?

Anonymous said...

Yea we're going to learn about racism from the guy who counts white people at rallies. How many white people were at yesterday's rally, Michael?

Anonymous said...

Apparently other teachers' chairs had issues at the same time and flat tires happen to all of us. (At my office I learned to park my car away from the loading dock area after a couple of tire issues)



Anonymous said...

The more I hear about this issue, it seems more and more like a kid or kids looking to stir the pot and cause trouble. It looks like it has been taken as a race issue when maybe it was really designed to get people all upset. If so the perp/s have succeeded well. The perp/s are sitting back laughing is my guess.

Anonymous said...

The students at the high school are saying that Ms. Gardner is not a good teacher and that she is mean to students in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:52 am is truly on to something.

It's one thing to condemn mean, nasty actions that target the race of a person, and cause that person to be in fear on a daily basis.

It's another thing to transition into the easy use of the term "institutional racism" in the schools. That term is now being thrown around as if it's a given, and there's no one in town brave enough to talk back to it and say "hey, wait a minute".

Yes, this is one of those times when we collectively earn Larry's term, Cowardly Anons.

Anonymous said...

This is only a race issue because adults need someone or something to blame for something they can't figure out.

Anybody who has been on the internet forums and discussion blogs like this one will know about something called "trolls". Clearly the child who wrote the graffiti is a troll.

The best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them completely.

The adults in this town did EXACTLY what the trolls want: they got upset and started running around in circles.

Amherst you've embarrassed yourself AGAIN.

Anonymous said...

Much to do about nothing, really.

Anonymous said...

If all of the people who talk about institutional racism and the fact that everyone is racist is some small way really want to make a difference, then I would suggest the following.

First, shut up about racism. Stop making minority kids feels like victims. Stop making white, affluent kids, etc feel like people perpetuating the problems.

Teach them the history of racism and things that have been done to change it in social studies classes. Stop having rallies, lectures, etc. Put it in the curriculum where it belongs much like every other social issue. Stop making a huge deal out of it. There are many problems in the world, poverty, global warming, dictatorships, over burden to our natural resources, etc. We don’t have rallies about those in our schools all the time, do we?

Now that you are teaching kids about racism in the context of social studies, step everything else up. You want to make a difference to the poor and minority students, then get them the best education possible, period. This does not include excessive rallies about race and inequality. This include the best math skills, the best reading and writing skill, public speaking, science, etc. Get lots of kids into AP course and get them to pass. Prep them for SAT’s , Really get them ready for college so they can decide what to do with their lives.

Tell them the truth. Life can be hard. Life is not always fair. Success by any measure includes hard work. Hard work is not always fun, sometimes, but not always. It is however rewarding and builds a sense of self worth, self respect, and the respect of others. If you want to rise up from that which holds you down you are going to have to do some hard work, or more likely a lot. The real world does not care about what happened to your race over the last 100 years. They care about the quality or your character and the intellect of your mind. Grow those things for every individual and the rest will take care of itself.

Walter Graff said...

NICE 7:54. Glad to see another good parent out there who cares more about helping their child grow and truly steer the course of their life than helping them to find excuses for why they can't succeed.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we humans are being too hard on ourselves. Discrimination based on various criteria has been around since the beginning of time, and we are not the only species to discriminate. It's in the animal kingdom as well. That's not to say that we shouldn't try to do something about it, but let's not try to elevate ourselves to a superior level. We're just plain old stupid human beings who never seem to learn.

Michael Hootstein said...

I want to thank each and every one of you, and Larry, for participating in this blog. For me, standing up against discrimination in all its evil forms, including sometimes black on white, is the best way we can prevent violence in our schools and community. My beloved wife Kathy was almost murdered because of such discrimination directed at the abused learning disabled 13- year-old African American child who shot her in NC in 1998. I fear the same discriminatory dysfunction exists here in our greater Amherst schools and community. But, I also have great hope that our common dreams can unite us in a common, mutually beneficial cause in the building of a more just and safer community where all our children, their family members and all of us are valued and included members.

Anonymous said...

I love how people make broad generalizations about the schools and community of Amherst based on some high school kid acting like a high school kid. I for one do not appreciate being painted with such a broad brush, Mr. Hootstein, and I would prefer it if you would just stop already.

Michael Hootstein said...

Anon 2:17,
This is not about "some high school kid acting like a high school kid". This is about our joint failure to address discrimination and bullying in our schools by adults, some of whom are teachers and school administrators. Sorry I upset you. The truth is tough to hear!

Anonymous said...

Methnks you are overblowing the issue, Michael Hootstein. The school administration is not ignoring anything. They have instituted many changes this year and are working very hard on issues of equity - long before the high school kid(s) did what they did vis a vis Ms. Gardner. You are misinformed if you think the administration has not been addressing this issue. All the recent hysteria has done nothing to help the problem. And your broad stroke comments also are not at all helpful.
Perhaps you are the one who can't handle the real truth of the matter. Before speaking you ought to learn about the many things the high school has done this year to address the issue of racism in the school.

Anonymous said...

It seems everyone is going along with the assumption (because the racist graffiti was found in restroom (s) ) that it has to be a student/child ? Has anyone even considered it could possibly have been the act of an adult/ employee? Just something I'd toss out there to you all.

Michael Hootstein said...

Anon 4:02,

So, what do you think is the truth of the matter? And, what did I say that makes you so angry? I really hope you're right and I'm wrong about my, "over-blowing the issue." When I lay my head down to sleep at night, I say a prayer, "Dear Lord, please prove me to be a paranoid old fool!"

Anonymous said...

I am not angry but I do wish people would get their facts straight. The last few weeks really do feel like we have been in a period of hysteria. And your broad brush comments Mr. Hootstein contributes to that hysteria. It's time for people to acknowledge that the schools are working on this issue. The work is not done yet. It may never be done. But there is more work on this issue happening in the Amherst schools than in most places.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:12,

We are all sure the schools are working on the issue as they have been for decades now, with better and worse years.

Perhaps 11:03 has it right. We are just human beings with all the benefit and baggage that comes with. There has always been and always will be some form of discrimination. Reasonable education on the matter will reduce it over time as it should. Nothing will make it go away completely, no new programs, no new rallies, nothing.

Amherst shoving it in the faces of our kids does little to make change and lots to create much to do about nothing as said previously.

Move on people, nothing to see hear but another dog and pony show to distract us from the real problems in education.

If you don't think so see how much the achievement gap has closed in the last 10 years with the low income and minority students compared to the affluent majority students.

Michael Hootstein said...

Dear Anon (April 10, 2014)5:12,
I want you to know that I acknowledge the admirable efforts of Supt. Geryk, Principal Jackson, Faye Brady and most school administrators and teachers. But, as a custodial grandparent of a male student athlete of paternal Puerto Rican descent, I can no longer turn a blind eye to a school system that systematically sets up too many of our children up for failure not success!


Anonymous said...

The Amherst schools have actually not been working on racism issues for decades. They have not done anything about it for a very long time. They are now. For the last couple of years they have been very actively addressing it. Is it possible to root it out altogether? Because of human nature, probably not. But the Amherst schools are certainly trying.

Anonymous said...

Since this page is populated by so many trolls and because the operator of this site makes it so easy to be a troll, I thought I would share the comments of Brimfield Police Department's chief.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/04/11/police-chief-has-some-strong-words-for-internet-trolls-talking-about-conservative-liberal-and-it-wasnt-a-gun-after-school-tragedy/

Larry Kelley said...

Well that should solve everything.

Anonymous said...

My child reports that Ms. Gardner has a guard with her at all times in school. Is this a police officer? The Amherst schools haven't wanted police officers in the school in the past.

Larry Kelley said...

No, APD is way too short staffed for that.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Gardner has a guard with her at all times in school

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!?!?

If she is that paranoid, she ought not be there.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the cost. This whole thing is bordering on the absurd. How long will we be paying for a guard for her? 2 months? Will she be back next year? Will she still require her very own tax payer supported body guard?

Nina Koch said...

So Ed (4:02 am),

How do you decide which of your ill-advised comments should be anonymous and which ones should be affixed with your name?