Class Struggle

Welcome to an experimental public high school where teachers file restraining orders against students and white liberals need not apply.

The School of Social Justice and Community Development in East Oakland is a different kind of public high school. The campus opened a couple of years ago after the Oakland school board gave it the go-ahead to become one of the district’s experimental, small alternative schools. On its Web site, the school lists its “general operating norms” for those on campus, one of which is to “Challenge racist, sexist, homophobic … and imperialist statements.” Wilson Riles Jr., known best for challenging the imperialist statements of Jerry Brown, briefly served as its principal.

When it comes to challenging racist statements, though, administrators might want to start at home. Consider the “criteria for collective work,” which the school has posted online. This appears to be a set of principles meant to weed out volunteers, tutors, educators, and visitors who don’t like the school’s radical philosophy. Under the “What We Are Looking For” heading, for example, it includes entries such as “Conscious advocates of the struggle against class exploitation and oppression.”

But among the entries in the “What We Are Not Looking For” section is this: “Culture Vultures, white and privileged people seeking cultural or spiritual affirmation through the appropriation of the cultures and identities of oppressed peoples.”

As a card-carrying Caucasian, Bottom Feeder was a little offended, even saddened that he couldn’t visit the school and have a student threaten to pop a cap in his white ass (more on that in a minute). What if the above criterion were turned on its head to read, “What We Are Not Looking For: Sanctimonious minorities who want to use taxpayer dollars to run a Maoist re-education camp disguised as a high school”? Then what? Yeah, that’s right. People of color might be offended.

To his credit, Kali Akuno-Williams, the school’s co-director, conceded that he could see how whites might find the criteria offensive. He described them as “a work in progress,” and recalled that the “culture vulture” passage was included as a result of concerns expressed by two Native American parents who didn’t want any discussion of Indian spiritual rituals dealt with in a patronizing way. Or something like that. It’s kinda hard to understand lefty-speak sometimes.

The administrator also thanked Bottom Feeder for calling to challenge him about the phrasing, although he didn’t indicate any changes were forthcoming. He may want to do something, though, since the offending phrase appears to violate the district’s boilerplate nondiscrimination policy.

By the by, if any right-wingers are reading this right now and salivating at the thought of condemning lefty educators in the home of Ebonics, here’s something to think about: You and the administrators at the School of Social Justice share a common enemy, though you hate them for different reasons. In its criteria for collective work, the school identifies one other class of people it doesn’t want loitering in its hallways: “Liberals, people who avoid political and ideological struggle to maintain unprincipled peace or the status quo.”

Bad Day at School

Unlike those spineless liberals, the fledgling School of Social Justice has been unable to avoid political struggle. Allen Temple Baptist Church, which rented space for classroom use as school administrators searched for a permanent site, evicted the institution a year ago because of bad student behavior. At the time, school board member and Allen Temple regular Jason Hodge, who originally backed the formation of the school, called for an end to the experiment. “To me,” Hodge told the Oakland Tribune, “it seems their whole philosophy is the kids are in control, and that’s not acceptable.” Hodge might have had a point given what recently took place between two students and Spanish teacher Jose Duarte.

Duarte says in court papers that during his one and only day at the School of Social Justice, now located on Hillside Street near Castlemont High, two big African-American male students rammed into him, knocked him backward, and injured his left shoulder and arm. The fracas, he claimed, began after he threw out one of the students for yelling “puta” (whore) repeatedly in class. The student came back to the class with a friend, who allegedly threatened Duarte by saying, “I’m gonna put a cap in your ass,” and “You better watch your back.” Another teacher later had to physically restrain the would-be ass-capper in the hallway.

Duarte sought a restraining order against the students earlier this month, at a court hearing where faculty members, administrators, and school principal Linda Halpern came to show their support — for the students. Akuno-Williams, who was present at the hearing, rationalized their stand, noting that the students had claimed Duarte hurled racial epithets at them.

In other words, to use the playground parlance, he started it.

Pee on the Terrorists

Wanna know how 9/11 has affected the everyday lives of Bay Area residents? Well, it has nothing to do with the restriction of personal liberties, unless you consider urination a protected form of self-expression. Every time Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge raises the terror alert color code to orange, as he did over the holidays, BART managers shut down all the system’s public restrooms. This, of course, prevents terrorists from planting a bomb in the john — in more ways than one.

Some pissed-off BART riders didn’t see the wisdom in the recent bathroom closures. For December 30 to January 5, for example, BART customer service reps received ten official complaints about the restrooms, making the closures that week’s second biggest policy gripe behind fare increases. A passenger from Concord traveling to Frisco on Christmas Day sniped on his comment card, “I don’t see how you expect riders to be able to go so far without going to the bathroom, especially in the cold!” Meanwhile, some wiseguy at the Rockridge station suggested the public needs less fear and “more smiles” and bathrooms “for relief in traveling inter-county.”

Mike Healy, official BART obfuscator, says now that Ridge has lowered the alert level to yellow, the street-level restrooms have been reopened, although the subterranean shitters will stay closed for the time being.

Trouble is, there’s nothing in the new measures that would stop a suicide bomber from, say, getting on a packed rush-hour train and blowing himself up. But thanks to BART security, at least he would have to carry out the mission on a full bladder.

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