[previously published on Marbles In A Jar]

 

image courtesy of google images and is owned by doctress neutopia (flickr)

image courtesy of google images and is owned by doctress neutopia (flickr)

In a recent Federal Appeals court decision in which free speech came head to head with the ‘threat’ of violence {AP: The Big Story, Feb. 27, 2014} the Court decided that a High School was right to “proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real”. The Associated Press reports that “administrators feared the American-flag shirts would enflame (sic) the passions of Latino students celebrating the Mexican holiday”.

The 9th Circuit Court decided that the school acted appropriately when it banned the wearing of tee shirts with the American flag on them, reasoning that “concerns of racial violence outweighed students’ freedom of expression rights”.

A brief account:

In 2010, on the day that Live Oak High School, in the San Jose suburb of Morgan Hill, California was celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that “is considered a bigger holiday in the U.S., celebrating Mexican heritage”,  white students were asked to remove Tee shirts with the American flag on them. The school feared violence from Mexican students who might believe the flag and the white students waving it to be racist. We learn from the Court’s decision that a year prior to this incident

[from the Court of Appeals decision:]

“There was an altercation on campus between a group of predominantly Caucasian students and a
group of Mexican students. The groups exchanged profanities and threats. Some students hung a makeshift American flag on one of the trees on campus, and as they did, the group of Caucasian students began clapping and chanting “USA.” A group of Mexican students had been walking around with the Mexican flag, and in response to the white students’ flag-raising, one Mexican student shouted “f*** them white boys, f*** them white boys.” When Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez told the student to stop using profane language, the student said, “But Rodriguez, they are racist. They are being racist. F*** them white boys. Let’s f*** them up.”

Based on that incident a year earlier, in 2010 the school feared that on this Cinco de Mayo things might, perhaps, get out of hand if students were allowed to wear the American flag.

As this column is about social issues, to begin, we’ll deal with the more relevant ‘social issue’ aspect of the story, the problem of government overreach.

Let’s get this straight. Are we to assume that the school’s ‘concerns”, whatever they may have been (or whether those concerns were justified), outweigh Constitutional rights? Note that these were merely ‘concerns’ rather than acyual threats made, as the incident with the tee shirts involved no threats – merely the potential for harm.

It seems. by this reasoning, that the ‘concerns’ of a Federal Government, a State, or a community police force regarding, say, a newspaper article which challenges a controversial policy – an article that might offend someone to the point of violence – would theoretically outweigh an individuals right to speak his or her mind. The ‘rights’ to one’s sensibilities or ‘passions’ not being ‘offended’ or ‘inflamed’ obviously trumping another’s right to express his/her opinion. Today, we have obvious ‘social concern’ that often arises regarding this, those who speak out about the  problem of radical Islam.

Taking the Court’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, the ‘concerns’ a government might have over the ‘threat’ of political upheaval, would, per the Court’s thinking, outweigh the right of the people to a freely elected vote. Said government would then have the right and obligation to step in to nullify the vote if the government in question found the vote worrisome.

Are our courts this blind to the impact of their own reasoning? Are we really there?

There is, of course, more than faulty reasoning, ignored implications, and dangerous potential precedent at work here.

Glaringly absent from the discussion of ‘rights’ v ‘concerns’ is the fact that the schools decision reeks of  appeasement and racism at its most vile and deadly. Simply put, the school was scared s**tless that violent, pissed off Latinos would run amok if they saw the eyesore that is the American Flag.

In the decision the Court notes that “school officials anticipated violence or substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities” and that “both the specific events of May 5, 2010, and the pattern of which those events were a part made it reasonable for school officials to proceed as though the threat of a potentially violent disturbance was real”.

Let’s translate the Court’s description of events into everyday terms:

A group of Latino students who opposed the American flag tee shirts might attack white students because they were angry at them.  School officials were concerned that on this day (Cinco de Mayo) pissed off Mexicans might attack these particular white students, so the school wished to protect the students from potential harm done by angry Mexicans who’s ‘passions’ could be ‘inflamed’. Never mind that the white students themselves acknowledged that there could be trouble, but were unconcerned. Not only this, they were prepared to take responsibility for their choices. The school wished to avoid inflaming the anti-American sensibilities of potentially violent Latinos, and forced the students to remove the offending flag.

Let’s be clear: the ‘passions’ the school did not wish to ‘inflame’ were, of course, Anti-Americanism and anti-white. Let’s also be clear, the school assumed that these Latino students, upon seeing an American flag would, by their nature as Mexicans, be unable to control said ‘passions’.

Sure, the school put on a happy face of ‘respecting the views of the Latino community’, etc. ad nauseam, but racial assumptions are racial assumptions.

Racism is racism. Appeasement is appeasement.

So paternalistic. So not so subtly racist.

Here, in a major, precedent setting Court decision, we see the harm done to culture when actual racism is appeased.

In 2009 the Mexican students in question deemed the flying or the wearing of an American flag by white students to be somehow racist. The Court chooses in 2014 to ignore the racist tinges of ‘f**ck them white boys’ and does not address these or the school’s uncomfortability with the comments in their decision. In 2009 the school failed to respond appropriately to  “Let’s f*** them up” by, of course, throwing the Mexican students off campus or, perhaps, calling the police.

A year later, students pay the price.

The school was less concerned by threats made (and less by the racist diatribes of the students who made the threats) then of being labeled ‘racist’ if they threw the students out or called the police. Had they done the right thing by tossing racist, threatening students out on their kiesters for making racially tinged threats in the first place, the case would never have made it into Court.

A year later that incident would have been long forgotten. On this particular Cinco de Mayo the flag would have been ignored (or, perhaps, respected and understood a bit more).  Appeasement of racists in the past spread its tentacles into the future. A year later, students paid the price.

Meanwhile, five years later, the lesson taught by the Court to the school’s students, to the community, and to all of us is this: ‘f*** them white boys’ is not necessarily racist but rather pride in one’s heritage, the intended victim of  ‘let’s f*** them up’ is in fact a racist ‘perpetrator’ with no rights, and the flag of the nation that promotes freedom and ended slavery throughout most of the world is offensive and a symbol of racism.

Only in America.

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