We’ve watched the recent events surrounding “the noose” allegations at Stone High School in Wiggins with equal amounts of amusement, horror and likely for none of the reasons vox populi would either be amused or horrified. First we’re amused that one of Slabbed’s high quality twitter followers has gone underground avoiding the media in general. Second I was personally amused to see AP reporter Jeff Amy scratch Stone County off his list of Mississippi counties where he has written a story.
The horror would derive from a rush to judgment on matters involving a bunch of of 15 and 16 year old kids, some of whom are clearly knuckleheads but all of whom are still kids. I’m also horrified the local newspaper of record via its editorial board paints an entire community with a broad brush laying this disaster at the doorstep of the community citing a contrived racial divide when a closer look indicates a far different narrative.
First let’s talk about what we know. We know that the high school kids were allowed to make political statements at the High School by flying the confederate battle flag from their pickup trucks. They are following the example set for them by adults like Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and most of the state’s political leadership who endorse a symbol of hate under which an entire race of people were enslaved. Slabbed can’t blame the kids here though because they are only following the bad example set for them by the state’s political leadership and their parents who should, but don’t know better for whatever reason. What this is not is the community’s fault because many of us know better than to engage in such boorish behavior.
What don’t we know? Exactly what happened near the locker room on October 13, 2016 for one. Did we have a knucklehead farm boy throw a lassoed rope on the wrong kid or were the kids simulating some of their grandparents behavior playing with nooses while indulging racial animus? Do we know that law enforcement tried sweeping this under the rug as today’s Sun Herald editorial strongly implies based solely upon the words of the victim’s parents or are the parents over reacting? Let’s visit with another press account from the AP:
Johnson said Stacey Payton was advised against filing a police report because the father of one of the alleged assailants is a former law enforcement officer. Boggs said he talked to Stacey Payton and that’s not true. He said he told her that pursuing criminal charges could result in hard feelings among students that could make her son’s life harder at school.
For those that don’t know the lay of the land here the “Boggs” quoted above is Sheriff Department Captain Ray Boggs who happens to be black and is the guy that has handled the criminal complaint filed by the Paytons. And in a County that is split roughly 80-20 white-black high ranking employees like Captain Boggs do not exist in isolation as those that remember Chief Lowe’s time as Wiggins police chief can attest. That doesn’t candy coat the fact that in 2016 Mississippi still has racial issues but the racial divide being cited in today’s noose reports exists only in the imagination of those that look at census numbers and make assumptions that aren’t supported upon a closer look at the community including Stone’s new head football coach, who has his team playing inspired team oriented football and winning games like they haven’t since the early 1990s.
What else is being assumed? That because only two white folks showed up at presser called on a few hours notice during a weekday the community is somehow not supporting the victim as today’s editorial states. Perhaps this is more of a case of 1) People not knowing about the presser. 2) Having to work for a living. 3) All of the above. The notion the community is not properly supporting the alleged victim because only two white folks showed up at the news conference is pure baloney and patently unfair to the people that live here.
We’re lucky folks because here at Slabbed, we can pick up a phone and speak to any number of media people about current events and that is exactly what we did on Monday. My first impression is one that I keep coming back to and this is where the kids come in.
This is a football team issue first and Coach Feaster handled it immediately by dispensing some very harsh discipline that included kicking one of the perpetrators off the team, an action which is entirely appropriate in the circumstances. There is only one color in football – gold as in championship Gold. To win it teams must be completely united and operate as one. Every Coach worth anything hammers those themes and such team unity had to be there on October 14 when Stone beat region power Picayune in double overtime. Football teams are also analogized as families and that too is spot on. Somehow the Stone High football team has managed to put this “family matter” into perspective, unite together as one and win. There is an example there for the adults to follow as Coach Feaster and his kids are leading the way.
Before we do one of these new fangled high tech media lynchings, maybe everyone should take a time out while the authorities sort things out. Maybe we can get to a place where people can understand that justice does not mean ruining the lives of a bunch of kids, even the knuckleheads, over a far more positive outcome.