Tuesday, January 20, 2009

BAMN nominated for annual Basket Crab Award

The Detroit-based community activist group known as By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) has since last fall accused the Ferndale School District of Segregation.

No, you didn't misread that.

BAMN is alleging Ferndale Schools is segregating students.
To be honest, I had to look-up the definition of segregation just to be sure I wasn't misreading the newspaper articles. And to make sure we're all on the same webpage together, here's my working definition of segregation for this conversation:
Laws and policies designed to separate black students from white students.
BAMN throws the term Jim Crow around a lot as well. Jim Crow is the common name for laws designed to keep blacks out of white schools, restaurants, neighborhoods, and in the back seats of buses.

One last example for those of you born after 1965: if I were to write, "This is a whites-only article. I've written a separate but equally compelling and inflammatory article for colored people at the bottom of this page," I could be accused of segregation.

Admittedly, it wouldn't work well here because you can choose to read it or not (choice is important later in the article). I would never write such a thing anyway because I haven't time to write separate articles for black and white readers. I do write some for liberals and recent college graduates. Those posts use small words, shorter sentences and simple imagery so they may keep up with the rest of us.

The good news is, BAMN knows our school board is neither discriminating against nor segregating black students.
Their own website article betrays this as its Jim Crow arguments are the weakest and least compelling of all the points they make.

The bad news is BAMN also knows racially divisive politics are good for business. It provides a steady stream of press clippings and donations to an organization desperately seeking relevancy. That's partially why I've nominated them for the annual Basket Crab award.

a Washington Post article, writer Clarence Page describes the award just as I would have (if he hadn't published it first):
"The prize, which I just made up, is awarded to the public figure who best exemplifies the often retold legend of the basket crabs: Every time one of them tries to get out of the basket, the others pull it back in."
The problem with segregation and Jim Crow is it requires people not be given a choice. With Jim Crow, black people couldn't choose to sit in the same restaurant, attend the same theater, or drink from the same water fountains as white people without breaking the law.

In the case of University High School, a magnet school jointly operated by
Lawrence Technological University and the Ferndale School District, enrollment is a choice. The 400+ students that attend there do so because their parents choose to send them there. Their parents choose that school because they deemed it a better alternative to their neighborhood public school.

To be more specific, their parents discriminated against their local schools and in favor of University High because that's what good parents do--make decisions for their children between available alternatives. Whether it's the school they attend, the music they listen to, the movies they watch, or the friends they hang out with, it's what parents and other responsible adults do for their charges.

It's called parenting.

If BAMN got its way and University High closed, those parents would no longer have that choice. BAMN would be responsible for removing those parents' ability to choose a better education for their children.

From that perspective, who's segregating now? Now you know why they may win the Basket Crab of the Year award. Whenever a crab tries to escape the Detroit Public Schools' basket, BAMN reaches out and pulls them back in.

BAMN's real issue isn't with Ferndale Schools or University High. And it certainly isn't with Ferndale businesses like Como's, Western Market, or The Record Collector. Their issue is with the Detroit Public School system.

Ferndale resident and possible council candidate, Greg Pawlica, described it this way: "If you want a Whopper you should go to Burger King, not picket Taco Bell because their Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme isn't a Whopper."

BAMN is tilting at windmills because they lack the credibility, clout , or perhaps the critical evaluation to hold Detroit's own school board accountable. As the dentist Doug Madsen (Tim Allen) said in the movie Wild Hogs while recovering from a stress attack, "I'm in a hospital. It's a lot easier for me right now to blame other people for my problems."

In other news, both good and bad, even BAMN picketers know what the boundaries of Ferndale's DDA should be. They haven't wasted any time visiting business more than a block-or-so from Nine Mile because even BAMN knows where the foot traffic is. Coincidentally, representatives from the DDA are rarely seen that far from Nine Mile as well.

To read more about this specific issue, the Ferndale School District has created this web page with links to BAMN's articles, newspaper articles, and the school district's own responses.


  1. A good post, and likewise a good speech at call to audience this week. My question is, what can we residents of Ferndale do about this? The obvious thing is to continue to support our local businesses who are being harassed by these radicals but refusing to cave to their demands such as Western Market. I considered a counter-demonstration, but I fear that would only bring more attention to them, and possibly lead to more problems. So I suppose ignoring them is the best option.

  2. Thanks, Jason.

    First, I definitely recommend visiting the businesses I know have been picketed. They include Como's Dollar Castle, Western Market, and the Record Collector. Each of them were targeted because they refused to display BAMN's poster charging segregation, their high traffic businesses, and the relatively high number of black customers they serve.

    When you visit them, be sure to let the owners/managers know you support their right to display the posters they want without intimidation, threats of boycotts, or picketers.

    I tried engaging them in conversation yesterday at Western Market with no positive affect.

    I suggest store owners return kindness (hot coffee, soup) in exchange for BAMN's contempt of their rights. If you need to say something, let them know you support the store's right to operate without their rights being infringed upon.

    If BAMN wants to hang posters they should open their own businesses on Nine Mile, pay rent like everyone else, and hang whatever posters they want without violating ordinances and building codes.

  3. I agree with BAMN 100%. To put it simple you are crazy and I will see you at Western Market tomorrow.

  4. Thank you for demonstrating the mentality of the typical BAMN activist: Rather than dispute the points made, throw out an insult.

  5. Jason, Tabian.Joe is, I think, a UHS student. Like others he's protesting with he's drunk the BAMN-Aide and little can be done to prevent them from harming themselves and others.

    The irony of the protestors insisting store owners be forced or intimidated into supporting BAMN while they're protesting alleged (forced) segregation escapes them.

    His opinion appears to be non-representative of other UHS students.

    I hope his reluctance or inability to debate the issue without insults is also non-representative of UHS students.