In Decatur, the standoff continues.
To those of us who grew up in the South in the Sixties, watching (and sometimes joining) the marchers for civil rights, this incident in Illinois falls somewhere between disturbing and annoying: disturbing, because it shows that even now, with the end of the century looming, we still haven't gotten over our petty bickering about race and annoying, because it demonstrates all too clearly that what used to be a Movement is now just another whining special-interest group.
Much as Rev. Jesse Jackson would like to paint these six young fellows as innocent victims of a white-dominated society, undeserving of the expulsion they got for gangbanging during a football game, it won't wash. In the first place, anyone who willingly calls himself a "Vice Lord" or a "Gangster Disciple" already has attitudinal problems, just by so doing. And this wasn't any kind of civil disobedience, the kind Dr. Martin Luther King raised to an art form; this was street violence, raised only to the height of the bleachers. The school board's policy was already in place: zero tolerance for this sort of crap.
Which makes me wonder: What was Jesse Jackson thinking? For years and years, he's been pushing students to get off drugs, stay in school, and become useful citizens. If he'd planned to come to Decatur to advocate these things, he missed the mark by a mile. He argued that zero-tolerance policies are draconian, and so they are, but as the graffito says, if it isn't cruel and unusual, it's not much punishment.
And, to be fair, it wasn't Jackson's seeming inconsistency that was the most disturbing aspect of the whole affair; it was the arrival of that seamy opportunist Matt Hale, head greaseball of the World Church of the Creator, hoping to make some headlines for his white-supremacist brethren. Jackson, sensibly, ignored him, as did most of the press. If nothing else, it was a reminder that however far from grace Jesse Jackson may fall, he's still a couple of orders of magnitude better than anything the self-deluded Aryans can muster.
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Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill