April 4, 2005

Could it be that growing numbers of white youth will not acquiesce as meekly to multicultural bullying as others have done before them? Is what happened at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, New Jersey, last month, just an anomaly? Or might it inspire others to break the mold of what has become conventional, that is, whites’ defensive behavior when targeted with the smear "racist," out of fear of rocking the race boat?

During a speech delivered by Regena Thomas, New Jersey’s black Secretary of State, at the predominantly white Catholic school, many students got up and left the auditorium in protest. It seems that Thomas was indulging in one of those typical preacher-style rants, in which the captive white audience is held as an enemy to be scolded and rebuked. Such scenes and rants of "righteous wrath" were all the rage in the 1960s and ’70s, when whites generally submitted as a form of duty.

In this case, however, even members of the school faculty sympathized with the angry students, and agreed that Thomas’s harsh remarks were "disrespectful" and her style "confrontational." This is most unusual, since school administrators are generally notorious for their apologetic knee-jerking, when it comes to the volatile subject of race.

Although there was no recording of Thomas’s remarks, and she probably did not read from a transcript, through word of mouth, students have shared some of her bellicose quotes, which are now showing up on blogs. One account claims that, in her speech, she told the black students to expect little from life, since the world is against them. She allegedly also informed the black students in the audience that the boys and girls, "to your right and left," are "racists." She is quoted as saying that she did not need to know or to meet any of these young people, whom she had just smeared, since she need know nothing more than to look at their white skin.

The rest of her talk was pretty much in the same vein, as she castigated whites, in general, for the usual wickedness, with a voice that sometimes rose almost to a scream.

Apparently, her remarks and style of presentation not only stirred school administrators, but roused quite a few parents, who expressed outrage that their children had been exposed to Thomas’s tirade. As reported by several students, over the next couple of days, the school was in social turmoil, as white students continued to fume, and some black students claimed to have received threats. NBC News reported that "racial tensions skyrocketed after last Monday’s speech." Leave it to a government bureaucrat to bring troubles where few exist.

In an unusual reversal, it is the black Thomas who finds herself in the hot seat of criticism for intemperate remarks concerning race, and is being pressured to issue apologies. According to the New York Times (3/27/05), Thomas claims she had intended only to impress upon the students "the importance of diversity and justice," and did not mean to be critical of them. She was described by NBC News as "distraught" to learn that her remarks, which were misunderstood, had been found offensive, and apologized to those who felt hurt by her words.

A black public official apologizing to whites for "misunderstood" racial remarks? What’s this world coming to?

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