Friday, April 06, 2007

Muslim High School Student in Davis Suspended for Malcolm X assignment; Remembering Thong Huynh of Davis High and Vincent Chin of Detroit

Photo - RIP - Davis High School Student Thong Huynh May 4, 1983
24 years ago I became an activist not long after a racial violence incident at Davis High School involving the May 4th stabbing death of Thong Huynh, a 17-year old Davis High School student, by another student James Pierman and a group of his colleagues who had racially taunted Huynh for weeks.
I worked with Civil Rights activists Angela Oh, Pattie Fong, Bob Matsueda, Grace Kim, the late Prof. George Kagiwada and others to build a group called Davis Asians for Racial Equality or DARE at the time. The City of Davis now commemorates Huyhn's life with a memorial award. In Northern California, the Huynh case was our local racial violence 'wake up call' on the same level as the Vincent Chin killing was in Detroit and the midwest from 1982-87. Chin was killed June 19, 1982 by Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, both unemployed autoworkers who beat him to death with a baseball bat in front of a McDonalds. Neither spent a day in jail and both were given $3000 fines and 3 years probation after they pled guilty to manslaughter in the killing. At the time I worked with other KPFA reporters to interview Huynh's family and activists from Northern California. I always teach about the Vincent Chin and Huynh cases because of their importance to Asian American history and social movements history as well.
Davis city reached SF news headlines again a few years ago after 911 when more hate crimes and racist incidents started growing.
In February, Davis High School students spray-painted the n-word word in large red letters on a sidewalk near the home of an African American couple, two professionals who had moved to Davis three months before to raise their children.

That's why I wasn't that surprised when I read Davis Vanguard's blog today about a reported incident several weeks ago involving a American-born Muslim Davis High School student suspended for 3 days for incidents surrounding his turning in a school assignment on Malcolm X. For the full story see

Disturbing Incident involving Davis High School - A few weeks ago, a Davis High School student, a 4.0 honors student heavily involved in student government and community causes, turned in a poster for one of his classes on Malcom X. On the poster appeared the phrase, "by any means necessary" along with other phrases from one of Malcom X's most famous speeches. ...The next day, the student came back and found that the poster had been taken down and in front of the class was told that this was a "terrorist" message. A few weeks later, this same student was asked to give a speech in front of the school during Human Relations Week about a civil rights incident that he had experienced. He was given a choice and decided to do it on this specific incident. He then gave them an advanced copy of the speech which they approved. He was told that he could not specifically mention the teacher and he agreed to this.
He then delivered the speech, he did not mention the teacher's name. Apparently the teacher however walked out during the speech, he and his parents were called in by the Vice-Principal.
There were several different meetings between the father and the school, but suddenly unbeknownst to the family, the student was informed that he was suspended for three days. ...
Meanwhile now the student's academic career is in jeopardy because of this suspension. The UC's apparently have a provision that any student suspended for three days or more is ineligible for enrollment....
To me on the surface this seems to have been handled very poorly. The Malcom X quote was clearly not intended to be a "terrorist" message. The teacher clearly overreacted there. I mention this since the terrorist issue arose, that this student is an American-born Muslim. Apparently the ACLU has been contacted, CAIR is involved, and many of the student's peers are outraged.
The three day suspension is a very harsh penalty given the facts involved. Now did he break his word? I do not know. But that seems an extreme punishment for a student involved in an academic exercise who is not dealing drugs or starting fights.---Doug Paul Davis reporting
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Anonymous said...

The Text of a speech that got a DHS student suspended

HT - People's Vanguard of Davis

Most of the time when people talk about discrimination at school it usually involves students harassing another student, which I too have faced, but these incidents don’t just happen to students. When I was asked to tell a story about being pointed out for my religion, Islam, the first thing that came to me was what a teacher on our own campus had done.
Earlier this year one of my teachers agreed with our class that we could bring posters if they were appropriate. I decided to bring in a Malcolm X poster with the quote, “We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”

I hung up the poster with her agreement and everything was fine. The next day I came into class and found the poster was gone. I went to my teacher and asked for the poster back. Instead she wanted me to sit down and said she was going to make an announcement to the class.

So class began and she told us that she had been thinking all night about the poster and the quote. She told us that that quote represents terrorism. That terrorists who kill, rape and shoot everyday stand by that quote and will do anything to see that come to existence.

I was in shock. I was angry. I was even hurt. I couldn’t believe the lack of judgment, poor choice of words and frankly the ignorance.

How could one of our own DHS teachers believe in this? It was not necessary for her to call me out in front of the whole class, and single me out. She was telling us that the poster I brought in represents terrorism.

I am not calling that teacher a bigot or anything, but what I’m saying is that we must watch what we say. We stand by our words. Our words express ourselves and show what we believe and think. So if you go up to an Arab and call him a terrorist, or a black man and call him the N-word, you’re expressing your beliefs even if it’s a joke.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised. I attended Davis High School, and I actually dropped out because I was so upset by the dynamics there. Holmes Junior High was even worse. DHS can be a very hostile, racist school, and at least when I was there, the environment was worsened by the administration.

It isn't just the administration, though; whether Davis likes it or not, there is an undercurrent of racism in the town itself. A year or two ago, for example, I brought three inner-city Latina girls I was mentoring to spend a day with me in Davis. The small-town, friendly atmosphere quickly disappeared, and shopkeepers and community members alike treated us with obvious disdain.

Sure, Davis is a progressive, inclusive town. But what if you aren't white and well-educated?

Villager said...

Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925. This weekend we celebrate what would have been his 82nd birthday. Please join us on the Electronic Village and share your thoughts on this African American hero. Let your voice be heard. peace, Villager