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August 28th, 2006

We Shall Undercome

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Memo to Red River Parish: YOU ARE DUMB.

Goddamn Louisiana. Now I understand that after Katrina, the state just wants to get back to the way things were before. I'm fine with that. Or, at least I'm fine with it if by "before" you mean, say, 2004. And not, say, 1954.

But thanks to one school bus driver in Red River Parish, we are once again playing that exciting game, Why The Fuck Are We Still Fighting This Battle? It's Louisiana. A bus was involved. For no money and no surprise whatsoever, guess where the black kids were forced to sit?

You've probably seen the news. First the white kids were given assigned seats and the black kids weren't. Then, after complaints, nine black students were assigned the back two seats on the bus, forcing them to sit in each others laps. The school district is not releasing the name of the driver, presumably out of fears that she could become the "Rosa Parks" of the antithesis of Rosa Parks.

Since we've seen this kind of thing play out dozens of times before, we can find the stupidity in the usual places - the excuse, the official reaction, and the apologists. Very textbook stuff for the most part.

THE EXCUSE:

According to the school board's official statement, the driver claims the ludicrous segregation "were the result of problems with implementation of a seating chart for students on the bus which had been established last year and were not an attempt by her to segregate the students on the basis of race."

That is what we in the industry call "plausibility-challenged". Because I'm pretty sure that even if the seating chart were written in encrypted Sanskrit, in invisible ink, on the stretched scrotum of an elderly donkey*, there's no way it could be accidentally misinterpreted as "pile the black kids in the back". I know literature majors who've read less into text than this driver apparently has.

THE APOLOGIST: There's always at least one. And they usually have blogs. Like some dickhead who may or may not be named "Ace" at a blog called "Ace Of Spades HQ". Which is something you name your tree fort when you're twelve, but that's beside the point. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Okay, I'll give them this one. There may be actual racism going on here. Although, of course, once again there is the overreaction. Not only should this bus driver be fired, critics say -- which is fine and dandy -- but that the entire school disctrict must be examined for racism.

It's a Louisiana school district. Of course it should be examined for racism. It should probably be examined just to make sure 90% of staff can spell "racism". It should be examined to make sure the janitorial staff aren't balls-deep in pot-bellied pigs on their lunch hour. Although I will admit, at least one system-wide solution is ludicrous, as evidenced by...

THE OFFICIAL REACTION: The driver's been suspended. That's good. There's an investigation. That's good. Oh, and all the bus drivers in the district will get training.

TRAINING? What the fuck? Here's the deal. You either know it's wrong to pile the melanin-rich kids in the back, or you don't. And if you do, great. You've passed one of the minimum requirements for human existence in the new millennium.

But if you DON'T know that's wrong, no amount of a guy standing in front of a Powerpoint presentation is going to help. I don't care if the slide showing a happy, integrated bus transitions with a horizontal wipe to a slide with a sad, segregated bus. The back of the bus is American myth, for fuck's sake. Like Washington and the cherry tree, only it actually happened. It's the kind of thing even a functional illiterate with lead paint windowsills can take out of social studies class. We used to make black people sit in the back of the bus, and THAT WAS A BAD THING.

Anyone who hasn't figured that out by now... probably feels pretty comfortable in Louisiana, actually.

*This is the most problem-riddled seating chart I could think of on short notice.