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RACE ISSUES AFFECT STUDENTS
Why I applaud former Oklahoma University
frat brother Levi Pettit for confronting racism
I Earl O.
stood before a
bank of cam
_ pmc anh
flanked by a bevy of black elected offi
cials, ministers and civil rights leaders at a
black church in Oklahoma City.
He apologized for his racially insensi
tive acts and ignorance. This was the act of
a sincere young man who has been bat
tered from pillar to post after the video sur
faced of he, and his frat pals, carousing on
a bus and shouting racist epithets.
For speaking out, he has been the butt
of snickers, derision and flat out condem
nation. The African-American leaders who
stood with and behind him haven't been
spared the vitriol, either. They've been the
object of vicious name- calling and attacks
for having the temerity to back him in his
Pettit, though, doesn't deserve con
demnation; he deserves praise.
He and his fraternity were booted
from the university. His name and that of
his family has been dragged deep through
the mud. He'll remain for some time the
poster boy for offensive and disgusting frat
racial antics whenever some wayward fra
ternity inevitably engages in them. He
could have stood on the prior statement of
apology and regret that he issued after the
tape went viral and set off a natiortfil howl.
He could have easily melted into the stu
dent woodwork somewhere, completed his
studies, and gone on about his business.
But he didn't. Instead, he went very public
with his apology and pledge to action.
Despite the lambaste of him and the
racial put downs and myopia of the detrac
tors, this is an important step forward, t he
public outing of the fraternity came the
same week that a study was released on
racial attitudes of the millennials. The
study found that young whites under 30
are no more enlightened in their racial
views especially of blacks than their par
For example, when respondents were
asked, "How much needs to be done in
order to achieve Martin Luther King's
dream of racial equality?" There was a
huge gap in how they answered the ques
tion as opposed to young respondents of
color. Forty-two percent of whites
answered that "a lot" must be done to
achieve racial equality," which was almost
identical to the percent that answered the
same of white Gen Xers and 44 percent of
white baby boomers. The survey finding
conformed pretty much to an AP survey on
racial attitudes toward minorities that was
conducted in October, 2012.
That survey found that in the four-year
period trom a prior AF survey on racial
attitudes in 2008, a clear majority of
whites (56 percent) expressed animus
toward blacks. The jump in anti-black
racial sentiment came despite nearly four
years in office of an African-American
It's been the rare day that's passed in
the now more than six years that President
Obama has been in the White House that
there hasn't been a racially inflammatory
video, photo, a sign, or some public figure
popping off on race that has made a head
When it does, the predictable happens.
The battle lines get quickly drawn, count
less individuals jam websites and chat
room and boards to downplay, or worse,
condemn the critics of the actions as being
too sensitive, thin-skinned or slamming
them for playing the race card with their
denunciation of a racial dig or taunt. The
Oklahoma University frat debacle was a
near textbook example of that.
Levitt and his pals were properly con
demned for their antics and given the boot
from the campus. Yet they had legions of
defenders, too, that accused the university
of not giving them due process, violating
their free speech, and for a rush to judg
ment in summarily expelling them.
Many more even expressed sympathy
with them for being harshly treated. And
some even commiserated with their par
ents for their alleged suffering and ordeal.
The fact that you have one student
offender who did not play to that gate,
claim victimization and accepted fully
responsibility for his racial offensive
action is cause for much hope; hope that
someone actually got it, and is willing to
lend a public face, their face, to those who
express their disgust at racial bigotry.
It's even better that this comes from a
young person that legions of young people
can more readily identify with than all the y
sermons on racial tolerance from those of
the older generation, and especially civil
Their sermons are like water off a
ducks' back to many of them. We don't
need more surveys on race relations to
know that they haven't had much meaning
so far to many young people such as Pettit.
Pettit did the right thing when he spoke
out, and so did the black leaders who stood
behind him, encouraged and ultimately
For that, I applaud and will continue to
Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote this col
umn for New America Media. He is an
author and political analyst. He is a week
ly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on
American Urban Radio Network. His new
book is: From King to Obama: Witness to
a Turbulent History (Middle Passage
Former Oklahoma University fraternity member Levi Pettit
U.Va. student didn t deserve to be beaten up
If a store
me I couldn't
sion, my next
be simply to
- When rules
no matter what I think to the contrary, I get
to "steppin." Some of us may squawk a
little bit, but for the most part we leave the
Martese Johnson, a 20-year-old black
student at the University of Virginia did
not get the chance to walk away.
The story goes that ID problems led to
the club official telling Johnson he
couldn't gain admittance. Kevin Badke
was the co-Owner of the Trinity Irish Club
who denied Maltese Johnson admission.
Badke said, "He was just disappointed he
didn't get in. He was just acting like a nor
mal college kid. It was very cordial. I
actually asked him what high school he
went to." '
Now to-my mind none of the afore
mentioned statements sound confronta
tional at all. In fact the exchange between
the two of them almost sounds friendly.
Martese Johnson is young, black and
male. These three descriptors seem to be a
catalyst for chaos and confusion these
days. In addition, Johnson is a third-year
honors student and a student leader. Yet
even with these credentials, he found him
self on the wrong side of the law on St.
Patrick's Day no less.
Almost immediately after this "cor
dial" conversation between the co-owner,
Badke and Johnson, the U. Va. Honors stu
dent, Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control
officers show up on the scene. What hap
pens after they show up is what's troubling
so many of us.
in his face
Now for me
control guys Martese Johnson
scene before immediately letting some
one's face collide with the sidewalk?
Lastly, what is the penalty for this type
of behavior by the officers?
Reports say that Martese Johnson took
the alcohol breath test and the results were
negative. Do these tests matter or does it
This type of beating is an outrage and
should be condemned at the highest levels.
I just wonder what these three ABC offi
cers were thinking. It is abundantly clear
to me that they were not thinking.
It appears as if every 60 days some
pay hp serv
ice to diver
sity and sensitivity training. ?
When Martese Johnson was told by his
family to work hard, stay out of trouble
and you will be ok, he believed them.
Young men who look like Martese
Johnson are experiencing another side of
Because it appears unnecessary force
was used against Johnson, the three offi
cers in question have been reassigned
other duties. I guess that is how the system
works. You smash a young man's face into
the ground even though reports say he was
docile and was not causing any trouble.
- - y ? ?
for me is just
they do, and
of them use
those tools to
1 e n c e .
to be a grow
Where is the justice in having them
reassigned? Why not have the officers
suspended until the investigation is com
pleted. It is my opinion that Martese
Johnson was victimized by those officers.
This case is receiving national atten
The governor of the state of Virginia,
Terry McAuliffe is keeping an eye on this
case. In fact there will be a lot of eyes on
this case. Will these officers receive some
type of punishment? We will just have to
wait and see.
These incidents involving young men .
of color just continue to happen. The cir
cumstances, in my opinion, are all suspect.
However, the results are still the same.
Young black men are killed and, in this
case, severely beaten and injured.
Our country is almost becoming
immune to "I can't breathe" and "Black
So what is the solution to tragedy after
tragedy? We have formed councils and
committees to study the issue, but the bru
tality keeps on happening.
We have had city, state and national
officials offer apologies, but the inhuman
ity keeps on occurring.
The moral compass of our America is
now severely skewed in the direction of
hopelessness and lost lives.
Yet we cannot give up the fight for
Let us be advocates for right in this
country. Maybe the message will spread.
James B. Ewers Jr. EdD. is a former
tennis champion at Atkins High School
and played college tennis at Johnson C
Smith University where he was all-confer
ence for four years. He is the President
Emeritus of The Teen Mentoring
Committee of Ohio and a retired college
administrator. He can he reached at
ewers ,jr56@yahoo .com.
Hate and discrimination masquerading as 'religious freedom
The Charlotte Observer
was actually quite moderate
and restrained in its recent
editorial criticizing the latest
dying gasp of the nation s
The editorial ? "Indiana
.... shows what not do" ? high
lighted the so-called "reli
gious freedom" law enacted in Indiana. The law ? which
was designed by conservatives opposed to LGBT [les
bian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] equality ? has
already set off a firestorm amongst more-forward looking
corporate types who are rethinking their involvement with
the Hoosier state.
Here's the Observer:
"Given the permissive definition of "religion" in the
bills, though, the allowed discrimination would hardly
I * ?
stop with the LGBT community. Even if such cases are
only episodic, even one is too many and the state's image
takes a hit.
[Indiana Governor Mike] Pence defended the Indiana
law by saying he doesn't think it legalizes discrimination,
and N.C. legislators will say it is simply about freedom of
religion. But in practice the bills undeniably open the door
to discrimination against almost anyone....
Does North Carolina really want to go down this road?
Do we want to sanction discrimination by letting anyone
deny service to whomever they please ? Do we want to
jeopardize conventions, job growth and the ability to
recruit? Arizona was going to last year, but under pressure
from the NFL and others. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.
If it reaches his desk. Gov. Pat McCrory should do the
same here." [End of Observer editorial]
And here's another reason to be against the offensive,
copycat legislation filed in the North Carolina Senate and
House: It's morally wrong, offensive and un-American.
As Think Progress reported recently, the discrimination
has already started in Indiana. And one doesn't have to be
a MENSA member to imagine the myriad forms of dis
crimination that some troubled souls in our state would
readily engage in if given the green light by state govern
After all, it was the same talk about "religious liberty"
that was frequently used as an excuse by those who
refused to serve people of color and interracial couples
back in the last century.
Anyone who thinks that ugly beast wouldn't re
emerge is kidding themselves.
The bottom line: Let's hope state political.and busi
ness leaders nip this nonsense in the bud ASAP and that
North Carolinians can avoid the ignominy of seeing their
governor go on national TV to defend discrimination and
Rob Schofitld is policy director for N.C. Policy Watch.
Find his columns at http://pulsejtcpoiicywatch .org/.