When Grayson Thomas, age 11, attended school last Friday, the last thing he ever expected was to be labeled a racist and instantly (and permanently) banned from his school. What was his crime, you ask? No…he didn’t say any of the words you are thinking, what happened was much more innocent and surprising.
The boy saw local CBS affiliate KTLA NEWS Anchor Chris Schauble in the school cafeteria, dressed in a suit and tie, walking around and shaking hands with teachers and students. Mr. Schauble was visiting the school to have lunch with his daughter, who also attends the school. Upon first glance, the 11 year old believed the man might be Obama then quickly realized he was not. However, thinking the resemblance was worth sharing he told his friend that “Obama is attending our school.” Soon, his friend told another friend, who passed it along and eventually word got back to the daughter of Schauble who took it to be a “racist” comment. When the girl reported to her teacher that that Grayson was telling people her father looked like Obama, and that it made her feel uncomfortable, the teacher passed the news to the principal who told the school superintendent, Dr. Winger.
It was at this point, things took a strange turn. Grayson was attending the school on a waiver (due to a recent move) and the superintendent decided the appropriate action was to “recall the waiver” and send Grayson to another school. He called the parents of the boy and explained the severity of the situation and that Grayson would no longer be allowed to attend school starting on Monday. When questioned why he would not be allowed to attend school, they claimed it was because Grayson was making “racist” comments. When pressed for the details of the racist comments, Mr. Winger replied, “It was racist because Grayson was saying that all black men look alike.” But when questioned further by the parents if indeed Grayson had said that all all blacks look alike Winger’s response was, “No, he only said that the man in question looks like Obama.”
Since that time, Grayson has been being bullied via texts by friends of Schauble’s daughter who have taken the “racist” label placed on the boy by the school administration to an entirely new level, calling him a “f***ing racist liar” and a “stalker” among other things. Word of this has also spread to Grayson’s older sister’s school where she is also being taunted about her brother. The bullying texts have yet to be addressed by the school administration.
The father of Grayson, Darren Thomas, contends that his family is anything but racists. “To call my son, and our family, racist is the farthest thing from the truth. Nearly all of his friends are of different races, both at school and in our neighborhood. We’ve even had a black friend live with us, in our house for several months last year. I don’t understand how comparing two people who look similar is a racist remark worthy of this level of discipline. I just don’t get it.”
Frankly, neither do we.
Racism is a serious matter, and should be treated as such. To belittle or make fun of someone simply for the color of their skin has no place in our society. But to say that an 11 year old boy should be expelled from school simply because he believed two people looked alike is ridiculous. One wonders if the same logic could be applied to the long list of actors who are lining up to play the role of the President in a proposed feature film; actors like Will Smith, Harry Lennix and Denzel Washington. Would saying any of these men “look like Obama” enough to play him label you a racist as well. Or how about comparing Donald Trump to a monkey as David Letterman has done many times on his television show? Which of these is worse, I wonder? Has common sense completely left the building in America?
Words have meaning (or at least they used to). As an author, I need them to. I cherish words because finding the right word for the moment is how I make my living. I am a communicator of stories…a builder of worlds based on the words that compose our language. I need words to have meaning or else nobody will be able to enjoy my novels. I could never “whisk” them away to a far away place because “whisking” might be construed to mean “beating” them.
According to the dictionary, a “racist” is “a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others.”
To use this word in any other way is to rob it of its meaning to suit your desires rather than the truth. Grayson is not a racist…and neither am I. Even though I do think these two men look a little bit alike…Don’t you?
To voice your frustration with this decision, please go directly to the source and contact Dr. Marc Winger, Superintendent of the Newhall School District: 661-291-4000 http://www.newhallschooldistrict.net/
Newhall School District