Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Academic Magnet students respond to Haire of the Dog's 'Melongate' story

The students speak

Posted by Chris Haire on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 7:38 PM

As expected, the response to my post earlier today on the firing of Coach Bud Walpole at Academic Magnet High School have been rather heated, particularly among AMHS students. Some posted in the comments section, but some took the time to write lengthy responses. Here are the ones I've received thus far:

Mr. Haire,

I am completely shocked by your allegations in the article you posted about the recent events that have occurred at Academic Magnet. I am a senior and have attended magnet for almost four years now. My school is not solely composed of students from an "upper-middle-class white family" and am offended that you would stereotype it to be that way. Don't you think stereotyping is probably not the best thing to do in this situation? Maybe a little hypocritical? My school prides itself on its accepting nature and our family-like environment. You portray us to be snobby rich kids with our futures just being handed to us. We work hard to get into colleges, just as hard as any other student at any other school. Academic Magnet is also a charter school that receives students from all over the Charleston area.

Maybe you should think about what you write before calling over 600 students "grade-A dumbasses". How does it feel to call that many students, most below the age of 18, dumbasses?

The football team started a practice of eating a watermelon after they win, something that has never happened a lot in previous seasons. After two games of winning, the team had a tradition, a sort of ritual they deemed to be contributing to their winning streak. As far as the "monkey noises", have you ever been to a football game? There was no notion of the team making monkey noises until someone called it that. The team was grunting. They're boys who were hyped up on pure adrenaline after finally being a successful football team. And the picture? They drew a face on a watermelon. How can that be considered racist?

However, that last paragraph is not the reason I am emailing you. I know my school's football team did not even consider their actions to be racist. And neither did their coaches. Because maybe, just maybe, they are above the thoughts of racism and just wanted to do something silly to celebrate. That is not why I'm spending my time writing you. I'm writing you because your article was highly offensive and rude to an entire student body that you do not know. Name calling is not going to make you a respectable writer, and I know that you have lost at least one reader today after that article.

Please, consider your words and how you have treated young students and adults in your article.

I appreciate your taking time to read this email.

Chandler Anderson
Academic Magnet High School

As a student at Academic Magnet, I am abhorred at the accusatory and hateful rant you levied against our football program. You claim the players and coaches are at fault for not connecting arbitrary dots between a harmless, innocent post game ritual and the history of racism in the United States. I can say, with complete confidence, that you have no idea what you are talking about. The football team began the ritual by buying a watermelon being sold on the side of the road before their second game, and the noises you and the accusing parties label "ape-like" were nothing more than normal football team hype. If you have ever watched an NFL or NCAA football game, you would know what that sounds like, but I guess you haven't. Had that roadside vendor been selling cantaloupes or pumpkins, they would have smashed those instead. Furthermore, if you have ever used the Internet, you would know that watermelons are the fruit of choice for any destructive endeavor. Are you going to label YouTube racist know? The players did not recognize this as "racism" because they are not racists. Our generation is the first in modern American history in which racism is not an epidemic. They therefore do not look for racism in every action they perform in their daily lives. Just because your generation, and all those preceding it, experienced racism as a societal disease and have become overly-sensitive regarding any actions that have any potential whatsoever of being "offensive," does not mean that we think that way. The students of Academic Magnet do not see race, yet because you do you vehemently commit libel against our coaches, players, and students alike. You, sir, and people like you, are the true problem in Charleston, the United States, and the world.

Zachary Zuber

Mr. Haire,
I am so thankful that we live in America, a place where each individual is free to speak his or her own mind not with the guarantee that someone somewhere won't like it, but with the right to do so nonetheless. I don't aim to attack your personal character, however I do find fault with your blatant portrayal of conjecture as absolute fact in the article you recently wrote about Bud Walpole. What's more troubling than this pathetic excuse for journalism is your disgustingly sweeping statements about the culture and quality of my alma mater as well as her students. Mr. Haire, I consider it a privilege to be an alumna of one of our nation's best high schools and I don't appreciate your utter degradation of the school that provided me with not only an amazing education but an appreciation for culture and diversity and a community beyond compare. A community that you disparage unrelentingly in a piece you wrote for a paper that bears my city's name.
I will not speak to the actions of the Raptors football team, while I will say that I believe some facts have been skewed to create a monumental race issue, this is not my intention in writing you. I simply wished to convey my offense and lack of comprehension as to why you felt it was necessary to attack an entire institution, an institution of which I am proud to be a member, in light of a few facts you garnered from several unconfirmed sources. I am proud of the education I received from Academic Magnet, and you should be ashamed of yourself for degrading such a reputable institution.

Haley Cottingham
Academic Magnet class of 2013
"Grade - A Dumbass"

I am currently a student at Academic Magnet High School and I would like to address the recent article that you wrote for the Charleston City Paper about the incident with our football team. First of all, you seemed to quickly breeze right over the fact that the one African American guy on our football team was okay with the watermelon smashing. Yes, he was okay with it. And you know why? Because racism in our generation is not as big of a problem as all of your generation seems to think it is. But what really is “it”? It’s hind-sight bias, and the racism of the entire situation was not racist until someone said it was. People being people just tend to believe anything they can convince themselves makes sense. It was not thought of a racist until an adult, who was raised in a different time, brought it to people’s attention. Kids of my time generally are not concerned with racism. If you look back in history at all of the hate in aspects of society including race, our generation can be considered the most accepting of them all. Also, the fact that you generalized the entire student population of AMHS as “nothing more than grade-A dumb*****’ is highly offensive considering we are all individuals. We’re not all snobby, so-called racist rich kids. I, personally, have experienced being homeless three times in my life. I try hard to be the best person that I can be and enjoy the little things. I am a teenager. My fellow raptors on the football team are teenagers too. We all do crazy stuff when we are teenagers as we are trying to enjoy the little things and have fun. All of us at Magnet are pleading that you and everyone else stop this. A good man’s passion is being taken away because of a situation that has been determined only off of interpretation. We work hard for our respect and for you to downgrade the students of AMHS so boldly is selfish, cold, and heartless. You are clearly uninformed about what the reality of student life is. Please recognize that.

Dear Mr. Haire,

I am writing to you to inform you of my opinion on the article you wrote in the City Paper about the AMHS football team. Like you, I am entitled to my opinion under the constitution of this country and respect yours as I hope you do mine.

As a student of Academic Magnet, I cherish the friendships I have made with my peers and teachers, for ALL of them are some of the nicest, most caring individuals you will ever have the privilege of meeting. I am also a personal friend to every single football player and I can promise YOU (who probably doesn’t know a single one of them), that they are nothing but respectful scholars, athletes, and overall, human beings. For you to have the audacity to call the whole student body “grade-A dumbasses” and our football team “douchebags” is beyond me. You are making nothing but general biased insults about our school and whole athletic program based on these “facts” you have, which are taken completely out of context from what is the truth. Mr. Haire, I recognize the fact that you write a column and that you have an opinion. But, nevertheless, I can say that the whole Academic Magnet community is offended and disagrees with you completely. How about you come sit in on a history class and recognize that we are indeed historically knowledgeable about racism, probably even more than you. I can also say that you need to check up on your facts about our school diversity. I hope you can realize how great our student body is and that we are anything but racially insensitive. I also hope after this realization you can eventually apologize to our community as well as our football team.

I would like you to email me back with your opinion in greater depth if possible, for I am interested in your logic and information.

Jakob Cumins

Dear Mr. Haire,

I am writing to you in regards to the article you have just published for the Charleston City Paper entitled "Melongate." I graduated last year from Academic Magnet High School and currently attend Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. Since I am physically removed from this controversial issue at my former high school, I feel as though I am capable of taking a slightly less biased standpoint than the current students at AMHS.

While I understand that it is in fact your job to write about social and political issues that our society is faced with, I feel as though Academic Magnet has been grossly misrepresented by your article. Although we happen to possess a mostly affluent, white student body, this demographic fact does not immediately discount our actions. In hindsight, the consumption of watermelon after games has clearly proven to be an unfortunate mistake. However, I do not think this entitles you to declare the entire student body of Academic Magnet High School to be "racist douchebags." Isn't this type of generalization exactly what put us in this situation in the first place? Racism is rooted in a lack of awareness of cultural and societal differences. To make generalized statements about any group, whether it be a country, school, or ethnic group, contribute to tension just as we are experiencing here. For you to generalize the the misunderstood actions of a few to a student body of 600 thoroughly undermines your illustrious journalism career.

I truly believe that my high school's football team was in no way intending to be racist. I'm sorry that some had to perceive it that way, but I know their intentions were nothing but innocent. I attended Academic Magnet for four years, and although we do not possess a large population of minorities, I rarely, if ever, saw any semblance of racial tension among students. We worked and studied together harmoniously, regardless of race, age, gender, or sexuality. In fact, I have never felt more comfortable anywhere in my life.

AMHS prides itself, and will continue to pride itself, on producing socially, culturally, and politically aware students. I know this because I was lucky enough to be one of those students, as well as the thousands of others that worked tirelessly to earn an Academic Magnet High School diploma upon graduation. Had I been surrounded by a bunch of racist and "grade-A dumb asses" like you claim, I highly doubt I would be where I am today, at one of the best universities in the country. I can attribute almost my entire success in life to the fantastic education I was fortunate enough to receive from the wonderful faculty members and school of Academic Magnet.

I am very unhappy that my school has been forced into the spotlight under such negative circumstances, but I know that the fantastic administration and socially conscious students will do their best to solve this as best they can. While mistakes have certainly been made by both team and school board, that should not serve to reflect poorly on a student body that has been largely removed from this situation prior to yesterday. I understand that you are doing your job and writing a heated opinion piece, but I believe you have forced a gross generalization upon the current students and graduates of Academic Magnet High School of which we are all entirely undeserving.

Thank you for your time.

Kellen Datta 

Dear Mr Haire:
I have just had the "privilege" of reading your article concerning the ignorant douchebags at my former school. Unfortunately I was not able to read it earlier today because I was focused on my studies. I am one of the white privileged racist dumbasses that graduated from Academic Magnet, and I am currently at Mercer University majoring in Global Health and on track to have a minor in Spanish before my sophomore year. Isn't it ironic that a school full of racist dumbasses produced someone who is intent on dedicating her life to the physical, psychological, and political health and wellbeing of others around the world? And isn't it ironic that a school full of such bigots would emphasize the importance of foreign language so much that I will have a minor in Spanish before my 20th birthday? Are you aware of the after school tutoring program academic magnet supports at local schools comprised mostly of the African American children we apparently "look down upon"? Are you aware of CHEW, the healthy eating initiative focused on improving the nutrition of underprivileged children? Are you aware of the weekly trips taken by Spanish classes to the predominantly Hispanic elementary school? And most importantly are you aware of the degree to which academic magnet students hold class, respect, comradery, and diversity? Clearly you are not. It is honestly pathetic that your "article" as a PROFESSIONAL WRITER is arguably more tasteless than the so called "racist actions" of the students on our football team. Sure, we could stoop to accusations and name calling, kicking someone when they are down and bringing the spotlight to their flaws, when we win a football game. But we don't. We choose to blow off steam by smashing a fruit, like a bunch of normal 14-18 year old boys. In your professional academic opinion, is it "normal" for a man of your age to call a bunch of students "douchebags" and "dumbasses" in a professional article? The football team had no intention of being racist whatsoever. We pride ourselves on our eclectic, unified, supportive student body and no false accusations could ever change that. But perhaps the football team unconsciously offended some people. You on the other hand, chose to consciously degrade what is an upstanding and life changing institution. The academic magnet is the single best thing that has ever happened to anyone who has attended it. We learned about hard work, we learned about diversity, we learned about acceptance, we learned about community, and we learned about respect. Perhaps instead of deploring this one of a kind, beautifully cultured student body, you should take some pointers. Read the letters written to you by HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. Take note of their professional, respectful, educated, dignified manners of expressing their opinions. Despite absolutely false and hurtful allegations from the school district, and completely immature unprofessional slanderous articles by reporters like you, the students managed to display their inherently rock solid morals. Despite your attempt to bully some high school students for an innocent yet obnoxious act, the students managed to represent what magnet is truly about- respecting ourselves and others of all classes, races, and cultures, in a dignified and upstanding way regardless of the circumstance.

Thank you for your time,
Chase Laudenslager
Proud douchebag/dumbass Alumna

Dear Mr. Haire,

I am a student at Academic Magnet High School. I appreciate the recognition that you have given the school about being great, but the stereotypes that you have made about the student body are not accurate. We are not all made up of middle-class white families, and our futures are not being given to us. We have to work just as hard as any other student to get where we want to go. I have also never once seen a student be treated differently because of their race or color. Academic Magnet has an amazing community, and it is very warm and inviting. I hope that you can now perceive it this way.
The so called “monkey noises” were not actually monkey noises. Our football team was merely getting excited and making noises, and if you’ve ever been to a football game or seen a football movie, then you know what I am talking about.
Michael Arnold

Although I’m sure you’re tired of your recent influx of emails from Academic Magnet students and friends, I feel I need to contribute my two cents to this whole “Watermelongate” scandal. Maybe you’re right. Students at a football game smashing a watermelon with a crude drawn-on face definitely is racist. Students having innocent fun in getting hyped up and yelling after a winning game could definitely be interpreted as nothing else than racism. Or maybe once you finished your inflammatory (and clearly intentionally so) article, took another swig of your beer, and congratulated yourself on how you really told those grade-A dumbass high school students, you could have stopped and asked yourself after more than the few shallow minutes of thought it took you to derive the arbitrary stretch of a connection between watermelons and a few grunts, and remember what racism really is. No, wait, apparently, we’re the ones who have forgotten “blackface, Buckwheat, and Birth of a Nation.” However, why should those things not be forgotten? They are black (no pun intended, sir) marks on the history of this nation, but people like you keep wanting to drag them out again, to remind us how racist this country is still is today. This country is still racist, but it’s no longer a simplistic “white people are the oppressors” paradigm. Racism is trying to entrench itself into everything we are, everything we do, because ironically enough, people are attempting to fight racism with racism. The way to overcome racism, or any prejudice for that matter, is not to counteract it with searching for it at every turn, it’s not favoring formerly oppressed minorities, and it’s hell as not firing a football coach because of an innocent post-game ritual. It’s to stop being racist. I believe this is something you have yet to learn, Mr. Haire. I know nothing of your race or your experiences with racial issues in the past, but it doesn’t matter because race doesn’t matter. And this is what the whole Academic Magnet community has always known, which, yes, is why we didn’t even consider that there may be racial implications in smashing watermelons (it’s a fruit for god’s sake), but I must ask why did you? Who else could someone trying to antagonize privileged white racist douchebags be other than a racist themselves if the implied reason for bringing it up is because we’re white and middle-class? Is your piece really a commentary on the racism in Academic Magnet or is it a demonstration of how racist you truly are?

Katie Moseley

Mr. Haire,

Hello, My name is Keith Howard, and I debated within myself on whether or not I should write to you about your article posted on the 21st of October, primarily because I know of the mountains of responses you are already receiving. Finally, I came to the conclusion that the magnitude of responses must match the magnitude of incorrect abrasiveness you displayed in your article, which, I don't even know can be achieved. I was introduced to the Charleston City Paper by my mother, and continued to be a reader because in the past I believed in its true, down to earth reporting and journalism of the culture and society of Charleston, not to mention the hilarious articles on "Southern Charm." However, and I hope you know, and you let your superior, which seems to only be the publisher, know that in my eyes, and the eyes of all of these other readers, that the integrity of your paper has been compromised, and it will take a significant effort by you and your peers to rebuild it.

That being said, I am not an AMHS student or alum, but an alum of its neighbor, School of the Arts. I was there when the two schools joined together on Bonds Wilson, when our two cultures at the ends of the spectrum—one focused on academic excellence, the other on artistic—collided. Despite a rivalry forming initially, these two student bodies came quickly to respect each other. Why? We all realized that the students of the other school worked hard to get where they were, whether that was hours studying, practicing music, painting, taking acting class etc., and we united under our common ethic. I already know your response, "But you are middle to upper class white kids, it was much easier for you to succeed due to your parents' income, environment, and other resources, and you are to young to understand the hardships of others in Charleston."

I can understand that you, an overly-sensitive man, unfamiliar with the cultures of AMHS and SOA, could think that, based on the two schools' demographics, we students take these inherent advantages for granted. However, you are sorely mistaken. The faculty of both schools make sure of promoting a mature understanding of equality in their educating. Thus these two cultures are, I would argue, the two most homogeneous across all races in their student bodies in Charleston County, united under excellence—and we recognize that everyone needs some help to achieve that excellence. On this note, the fact that you called the underage student body of the best public school in South Carolina "grade A dumbasses" should have you fired, and the fact that your article was published is an incredible disappointment for journalism. I am a product of School of the Arts, which is ranked below AMHS (yay I am a megadumbass), and I am only able to attend, due to my financial condition, Furman University through my music scholarship and academic scholarship. During my time at School of the Arts, I volunteered in a program, the Liberty Hill Literacy Program, to promote literacy by reading to, and teaching to read, elementary students of Hursey Elementary, a school near Bonds Wilson in the impoverished part of North Charleston, a wretched result of the MORE than 100 years of oppression on minority blacks in Charleston. These kids' hardworking parents were too busy working many jobs in order support them to be able to read them books when they were young, so we worked hands on to try and help the kids catch up to the standards set by CCSD...because we all know that we could not have gotten where we are without the help and teaching of others. This is not some outlier story—every day you will see an AMHS or SOA student at that program.

But I am just a middle class white kid dumbass to you, so I know my opinions on the racial differences I saw don't count to you, and I will digress. I do not know personally any members of the football team of AMHS simply because I have become too old, but I know for a fact that the students had no racist intentions by smashing fruit and getting rowdy. Monkey noises? Seriously?! I'm not even going to pursue THAT argument. The CCSD interrogation process of the students was disgusting, and their handling of Coach Walpole's expulsion was repulsive, however it is not surprising. This administration has, in the years of my experience, reacted to everything brought up by concern with a cat-in-the-corner reflex to fire/expel someone and worry about the validity later. Most of the time they don't have to worry because the story and public interest dries up (wild outlandish stories are published in the beginning, so any later resolutions don't sound as interesting and fall back. Sound familiar?). All I ask is that someone like you, who somewhere along the way in your life decided to pursue journalism and editing, fields in which all who pursue them wish for the truth to be reported, to not react with the same reflex to get the fresh catch. However, I ironically do hope you are fired promptly, because, unlike the case of "Melongate," there is CLEAR evidence of your hate to a culture you don't understand, and CLEAR evidence for your degradation of the Charleston City Paper.

Thank you for your time,

Keith Howard

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