Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Brooklyn story

This is sad. Chanequa Campbell, a gifted African American student from a poor, violent neighborhood in Brooklyn was told she would not be allowed to graduate this spring from Harvard and was forced to move off campus.

She was raised by a single mother in a blue three-story house in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and was set on a path to Harvard in fifth grade, when she was nominated to participate in Prep for Prep, a program that prepares minority students for elite schools. In seventh grade, she was admitted to Packer Collegiate Institute, where she excelled and was a star athlete. She won a New York Times Scholarship in 2005, applied to 14 colleges and was accepted to all of them.
Three weeks before she was scheduled to graduate, prosecutors reportedly linked her to a murder at her dorm. One of her friend's boyfriends killed a pot dealer in a botched robbery.
“Conversations that occurred between at least those four people led Jordan Copney to believe he could rip off Justin Cosby,” said the Middlesex County district attorney, Gerard T. Leone Jr. He also said that the Harvard students had provided the three men access to the campus.
Ms. Campbell was not charged with a crime and denies she was involved in the planning of the robbery or the murder. In an article in the Boston Globe, she denied knowing the pot dealer and letting anyone use her dorm access card. Harvard is not providing any details as to why she will not be allowed to graduate.

As you can no doubt imagine, the comments on the Globe story are mostly sick. It's getting to the point where the words "conservative" or "Republican" are synonymous with "racist moron." Those commenters, aside from the openly racist shit, whine on and on about "the race card." Now that Obama is president, no one is allowed to complain about racism any more, dontcha know.

But the old-fashioned don't question authority kind of conservatism comes out strong in that thread as well. Many simply cannot believe that Harvard would not take that kind of drastic action if they didn't know something they weren't telling. I admit to being somewhat susceptible to that argument, but I know better. Shit, as they say, flows downhill.How many times does a powerful organization find itself in an embarrassing position, look around for someone to blame and pick on the most powerless person available. So who's that gonna be? Chanequa from the hood or Brittany?

Of course I don't know. There's not enough information available to come to any kind of responsible conclusion on the justness, or not, of Harvard's actions. But no matter the outcome, this is a sad story in all too many ways.

I am familiar with Ms. Campell's educational background. Prep for Prep is an organization that picks the brightest minority students out of NYC's public schools and guarantees them placement in an elite private school. The prep part is two summers and the year in between in which sixth graders complete a grueling curriculum to catch them up with the kids in the private schools they will be entering. It is affirmative action, but not the kind that advances kids that can't hack it intellectually. Prep kids do very well in the top schools and belong at whatever university they choose to attend. Colleges want the top Prep kids because they are sure bets to succeed. After Prep, she excelled at a very good Brooklyn school, became a national merit scholar, and got into Harvard. Her parents and twenty relatives were planning on attending her graduation. I have some sense of what that would have meant to them and, try as I might, cannot imagine the devastation they must feel over what has happened. When a kid comes out of Bed-Stuy and aces Harvard, it's a very special thing.

And even worse, some poor kid died in a marijuana-related crime. This is yet another example ways in which prohibition destroys so many lives. The kid who died, his family, and possibly a very gifted young woman as well.