The Omaha suspension of a white high-school student originally from South Africa is sending shock waves across America as debate rages over who can claim rights to the term “African-American.”
South African native Trevor Richards suspended over African-American campaign
The case centers on Trevor Richards, a junior at Westside High School, who moved from Johannesburg to Nebraska six years ago.
Richards and his classmates, 16-year-old twins Paul and Scott Rambo, were booted from classes last week after distributing posters touting Trevor as a candidate for Westside High’s “Distinguished African-American Student” award on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“The posters were intended to be satire on the term African-American,” Scott Rambo told the Omaha World-Herald.
Principal John Crook says the posters were disruptive.
“It was offensive to the individual being honored, to people who work here and to some students,” Crook told the paper. “My role is to make sure we have a safe environment, physically and psychologically. We can’t allow that kind of thing to be hung up on our walls.”
Records from 2002-2003 indicate only 56 of Westside’s 1,632 students were black, and some in this year’s student body were reportedly upset by Richards’ poster.
Ironically, the first two recipients of the student award were white.
“It was not intended at the beginning to be one race only,” Clidie Cook, who helps organize the annual event, told the World-Herald.
But Westside officials pushed to change that, feeling the spirit of the honor meant giving it to a black student, and by 2001, the ministerial alliance in charge specified it was for blacks only.
Since the suspensions last week, the issue has been picked up by the Associated Press wire service, and has become a hot topic for columnists, talk radio and Internet messageboards.
“There is no room at the inn for the viewpoints of conservatives, libertarians, Christians, or constitutionalists in the public indoctrination system,” says David Huntwork, a conservative activist in Fort Collins, Colo., who criticized the squashing of “this gallant expression of grass-roots activism.”
The ABC television affiliate in Omaha, KETV, has been swamped with comments on its Internet messageboard.
Among the postings:
- I attend Westside and I am in support for Trevor. Trevor is one of only maybe one or two other people that are actually from Africa. Trevor is more of an African-American than any other “African-American” at Westside. It is also wrong that there is an award for only black students when every other award at Westside is for everyone and everyone has an equal chance to receive those awards if they try.
- If you mean black award, say black award. If you must be racist, that is.
- Why are white Americans constantly hounded, ridiculed and stripped of any racial identity? Why is it OK for everyoneto be racist, except white Americans? … Can you imagine black students getting suspended for joining the “black student union” or any other black group on any campus, or workplace in America? This racism against white Americans must stop.
- I think the administrators should be fired. This is going too far. Let’s get a grip people! God this makes me sick. Fire those people!
- As a Canadian white male, I have worked with and befriended a few black people. I never once heard them refer themselves as African-Canadians.
- [T]echnically, Trevor is most likely Afrikaans-African-American or Dutch-African-American considering the white descendants of South Africa are from those European descents. So if you want to talk technically, he still is not eligible for this award. The truth is that everyone who is writing these absurd comments knows what African-American means. It is a black person. The term given to this ethnic group has changed over the decades from Negroes to colored people to black and finally African-American. It is a descriptor.
The label “African-American” is not universally used by blacks today, as evinced by companies and groups such as Black Entertainment Television, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, better known as the NAACP.
A search of more than 200 U.S. newspapers geared predominantly toward blacks finds at least 16 have the word “black” in the title, while only five have “African-American.”
As WorldNetDaily reported last summer, a member of Congress, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, ignited national controversy when she reportedly sought an affirmative-action plan of sorts for hurricane names.
“All racial groups should be represented,” Lee said, according to the Hill. She hoped federal weather officials “would try to be inclusive of African-American names.”