Monday, June 25, 2012

Legitimate black man kicked out of bar

Headlines are written to draw readers to the article.  They serve as a summation of what follows and entice us to give the piece a chance.
Like most readers of news, I depend on headlines to help me weed through the massive choices in front of me.  Many headlines let me down after promising a sensational discovery only to deflate me after presenting news that fails to live up to the billing.  I got hyped after reading “Hip-Hop Mogul indicted on murder-for-hire charges”.  The headline lured me in because of a false assumption.  Had authorities finally arrested Suge Knight for the arrest of Tupac?
Nope. It was James Rosemond who was charged in New York for ordering others to kill a man in 2009 as payback for an assault on his 14-year-old son.  Rosemond is best known for his work with Salt-N-Pepa, Big news, but it’s not Suge Knight.
That headline served its purpose.  So did the one I read from happenings over in Raleigh, NC.  “Harvard graduate student thrown out of bar in North Carolina allegedly for being black” Those were fighting words.  It was just enough to get my blood churning.  I’d had enough of black men being treated wrong, and this one had me overly sensitive because it happened less than 25 miles away.
That’s the first thing I wanted to know.  What city was it?  My assumption was correct.  It happened in Raleigh.  I can’t imagine something like that happening in Durham, NC.  Not after being voted the most tolerant city in America by The Beast. The bars in Durham are a haven of multiculturalism.  No one in their right mind would kick out a person because of their race.  With that being said, I couldn’t make that assumption.  I’m still not over the burning of three crosses in one night in Durham.  Anything is possible.
After confirming it happened in Raleigh, I read the rest of the story. “What was so demoralizing about this reality is that I have worked to do everything right,” says Jonathan Wall, a 21-year-old graduate assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Wall is a graduate of Morehouse College and is set to begin graduate studies at Harvard.  He has played by all the rules.  That statement from Wall, and the headline that flushed out the power of all that hard work, had me thinking about what made this a big story.
It’s the Harvard in the headline that brought legitimacy to his claim.  The more I thought about it, the more I envisioned a more honest headline.  How about “Legitimate black man thrown out of bar.”
We shouldn’t minimize Walls pain.  From all accounts, something went array that night.  Wall says he and a friend went to The Downtown Sports Bar and Grill on a Sunday morning.  It was only his second time in a bar.  Wall smells squeaky clean.  The type of kid a father would introduce to his daughter – educated, motivated and he isn’t one to spend time in a bar.
They were told they couldn’t go in because the bar requires membership. Somehow he made it inside, and was quickly confronted by the general manager who told him to buy a drink or leave. Wall explained he was waiting for a friend to use the bathroom when he says the general manager put him in a headlock and forced him out of the bar. 
Wall told a police officer on patrol in the area about the incident, but no report was filed. The bar denied Wall’s claims in a statement released to the press on Friday. “Mr. Wall was not roughed up or improperly treated.  Mr. Wall was not the subject of racial discrimination,” according to the statement.   It continues to state that Wall “took advantage of a crowded door situation after being told he could not enter without being a member or the guest of a member.”
I kept looking for evidence to prove that Wall was kicked out because he’s black.  I searched for a racial slur, a comment about your kind of people, anything to give credence to the claim that he was removed from the premises because of his race.  I’m down for the protest.  I have a new pair of we shall overcome shoes ready to take to the streets and march.  I couldn’t find it in the story.  As bad as I feel for Wall, and I sincerely do, there is no evidence to validate his claim that race was the motivation behind all that happened.
That’s not to say it’s not about race.  Wall is probably correct to assert that the headlock and boot came from an ole hillbilly with built up racial anxiety.  The only way to measure things like this is to walk in those shoes.  It’s often what isn’t stated that gets at the truth.  It’s how things are done that leave people like Wall thinking there’s an underlying thing going on in the midst of the battle.  I feel you dude.
But, there are deeper implications related to what makes this news in the first place.  It’s what Wall said.  It’s what is stated in the headline that got me invested in the story: “Harvard graduate student thrown out of bar in North Carolina allegedly for being black”.  After playing by all the rules Wall, and others like him, have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. How dare they treat him that way! He’s not just a black man, he’s a black man headed to Harvard.
Let’s face it.  This would not be news if Wall was a student at Shaw University or St. Augustine.  The headline failed to mention Wall is a graduate of Morehouse.  Harvard brought credibility that the HBCU couldn’t.  The use of Harvard forced everyone to stop and ponder the rest of the story. Sadly, that's what it takes to be heard, the validation of an institution that you’re not a loud mouth black dude who blames white people for all the wrong in your life.
Would the story get headlines if the man choked has a GED, is unemployed, has two baby mama’s and is two months behind in child support?  It’s the saddest part in covering the news regarding black men.  Their credentials end up in the headline as a way to confirm or deny the credibility of their claim. 
It’s difficult to respond to Walls assertion of racism.  Unless there’s more to this story, I’m forced to reserve the use of my race card.  That doesn’t mean I can’t feel my brother’s pain.  I do.  I want to fight for him.
I want to fight, but not because he’s black.  I want to fight because he’s a black man headed to Harvard.  He played by all the rules darn it.
Bow down and show respect for a man like that!  But, what about the dude in the chokehold with a GED?


  1. As you said, the newspaper headline was wrong on several counts, the most important being that his race may have had nothing to do with it. A few private clubs exist in the Triangle, with a paid membershipo required to satisfy some liquor law or to limit attendance. Some of these clubs are predomaninantly black.

    The headline writer, however, tried to make something out of nothing with this incident by indicating it was all about race. He/she compounded the error by emphasizing that Walls was a "Harvard" student, supposedly lending hm a credential of importance (association bias). You are correct that a student from Shaw or just a plain old Joe from the street would be unlikely to be so associated with the credential, but the story would still be the same. A person was refused entry into a private establishment and then refused to leave when asked. We still don't know how much race, if any, played in the matter. That, to me, is the more important question.

    After all, I know assholes from Harvard, Shaw, and the street that I wouldn't like to see in any club.

  2. It is my general policy to allow readers to respond to my comments rather than engage with them on what they have to say. In your case you made comments that I embrace as one who doesn't know the family. I wrote as an outsider. You wrote as one on the inside. I can't dispute what you had to say. Blogging is a process not uncommon with other forms of the press. People send letters to newspapers regarding their thoughts about what is written. I review comments to my blog, like any editor, and decide to post those that add to the discussion. Most bloggers do not respond to comments but offer the comment section to those willing to interact with one another. That way the blogger doesn't overshadow the blog. Sorry for your displeasure, but I do understand.