Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anonymous Critics; Race; Belief vs. Conduct

Yesterday evening I removed a comment that had been posted earlier in the day by an anonymous poster. I want to share with you why I did so and to set forth a principle regarding future comments.

The comment in question was a direct attack upon Nneka Slade Jackson. We endorsed Jackson in her race for the ward 4 seat on Richmond Heights city council. (She lost but did far better than most first-time candidates usually do, but that is beside the point.)

This particular Anonymous made a series of claims about Jackson’s lack of fitness for public office, apparently in an effort to rebut our condemnation of the Sun Messenger’s endorsement practices

The commenter’s claims were harsh but if true they might have been fair comment. 

I didn’t want to make negative comments about a Real Deal endorsed candidate the basis for our  first occasion for censoring, even if there were elements in the comment  that were false as well as ludicrous on their face. So I did two things: I called Ms. Jackson and I did a limited search of easily available public records.   

Based upon my findings, I removed the offensively inaccurate comment.

Going forward, The Real Deal will immediately remove any similar comments published under the cloak of anonymity. We allow anonymous comments on this site because some people might have good reasons not to disclose their identity. But we will not allow unsubstantiated scurrilous attacks by squirrels. A squirrel is hereby defined as a person who makes anonymous scurrilous attacks on other people.

No offense to squirrels.

• • •

On a related note, an increased number of anonymous comments take issue with our reporting, analysis, and assessments, especially with respect to Richmond Heights. We welcome the dialogue, especially when it deals with specifics. Oftentimes the comments help us to understand where we might have been clearer, or presented us with an opportunity to restate information for some readers who may be new to the issues.

A lot of the anonymous commenters appear uncomfortable that much of what I write deals with race, again with special reference to Richmond Heights. They seem to feel that I put too much emphasis on race. They accuse me, and/or some of the black people I write about, of playing the race card. And they suggest that I am critical of such stellar public officials as Jason Popp, Josh Kaye, Bob Fox and Aaron Burko simply because they are white. 


I am an equal opportunity critic. A casual perusal of my back posts will find me more critical of certain black folks than I have yet been of esteemed members of the Richmond Heights School District.

A more thoughtful analysis of my reporting will, I believe, warrant the conclusion that I criticize behavior. I criticize the actions of these public employees and officials.

I didn’t call Jason Popp a racist although he admitted using the n-word. Nor  do I think the obsessive desire of Messrs. Kaye, Burko, and Fox to fire the superintendent.

I think I pretty readily argue that life is complex, that humans are complex beings, and that motivation is most often multi-rooted. For instance, a white man can be a racist, as that term is generally misunderstood, yet pull the voting lever for President Obama nonetheless. His neighbor could be married to an African American but think that the president’s policies are horribly conceived, egregiously executed, and that a vote for Obama’s opponent is essential to the nation's survival.

Similarly, Herman Cain… No, skip that.

The point is that my criticism of Jason Popp is not based on who I think he is but on what he did: he routinely used racial epithets with a group of impressionable young black students whose care and education was entrusted to him. He got in their faces and showed disdain for their heritage and culture, for who they were, and for who their parents and grandparents are.

That’s not coaching. It’s child abuse. 

The research says it. 

Ohio law says it. 

And school district policy says it.

But board members Josh Kaye, Aaron Burko and Bob Fox did not publicly acknowledge, even with a thousand legal caveats, the impermissibility of such conduct for months. Even then it took a courageous parent, Nneka Slade Jackson, acting on behalf of an outraged portion of the community, to skillfully and persistently push the school board president to admit in a public forum that well, yeah, that kind of conduct would be inappropriate.

• • •

I will continue to address the conduct of these public officials as I complete my response to another anonymous commenter. I will also focus on the conduct  that is likely to result in multiple findings of misfeasance against the school district by the bevy of public agencies currently investigating Richmond Heights Schools. Then I will to turn to the future and what I hope will be a new course for the school district. 

The hope is based on the outcome of this week’s election and the probability that a new majority will evolve, a majority focused on the education of the children, stewardship of the public trust, and creation of a healthy environment.


Journalist Kathy Wray Coleman said...

Firing Dr. Hardwick would be racist and we shall picket if they do. Read urban news from the greater Cleveland area here.

Richard said...

Kathy, you might be correct but you are certainly premature. My personal belief is that it seldom helps a situation to characterize a situation before it even occurs. And I suspect the event that you are so ready to protest is less likely as a result of Tuesday's election.