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Racist remarks within the troop

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Thank you John, and and all of you for your consistent, or is that persistent, advice.


I do not believe this is coming out of the home, in either case. We have some rough middle schools here, and I believe this is a peer generated response (outside of scouts). That is also the consensus of the other troop leaders who know these scouts and their families.


Finally, (and I have been reluctant to say this until now), I have an ulterior motive in not kicking these two scouts off this campout. If I remove these scouts, then I remove the SPLs father also. We can find alternate transportation, but that leaves us with only have 2 adults (including myself) on this outing. For a hike, that is an unacceptable number, as I insist on at least one extra as a backup, even for a group of only 10 scouts. Many of these first year scouts have worked hard to prepare for the hike, and I cannot purposfully punish them for someone elses transgressions. Doing so would also mean that I would have to air this before the whole troop, and that would go against the fact that Joseph asked that I deal with this quietly, meaning, ultimately that he would be "punished" for bringing this out in the first place, and I cannot do that to him. We usually have an overabundance of adults on our hikes, but two cancelled due to lingering health issues and another had a previous commitment. Otherwise, I would not have hesitated to call out these scouts yesterday. I am sorry if you see this logic as flawed, but it is the reality of the situation; even if you disagree, I hope you understand this.


I will discuss this with the parents. SPLs dad will be on the hike; he is a friend, and I can discuss this with him very comfortably. The other's mother (no father) I have known since my children were in the kindergarten class across the hall from hers in elementary school. I also like what Barry said, and again, I do not think this will be an issue.


OK, I am off to the scout hut. I will try to let you all know how it went Sunday evening. I am confident I am prepared for any likely outcome; in fact I am looking forward to a fun weekend of scouting. The worst I am expecting is a couple of whining 1st years who have never been on a hike. It is always fun to get them through that first hike, and it gets easier after that.


I will remain on my guard.(This message has been edited by Buffalo Skipper)

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A "Watermelon Man" scenario would be interesting. But as we both stated, how to have them experience both racism and intimidation safely and effectively, without being clued in on what is happening, is the drawback.



As Beavah stated, not everything has to be tied to advancement. If you were so inclined, and know the MBC's of the MB's that I mentioned, you could have a talk with the perspective MBC (you are the one who gives the scout the MBC names). Explain that there was an incident involving the young men (no specifics need to be mentioned), that you would appreciate their assistance, and have them inform the scouts that they, the MBC's, have a list of movies, speeches, and community organizations for the scouts wanting these MB's, to choose from. Give the MBC a list that would be appropriate to pass on to the boys. This effectively still allows the scout to make a decision on what he chooses. Maybe not the movie, organization, etc, that he may have been thinking about, but he makes the decision. This, in a round about way ends up tied to advancement, but only for the purpose of nudging the scouts toward the morally straight path. Plus, because this is not proposed to them in their sitdown with you, they will be none the wiser, just thinking it's the MBC's list.


Punishment imposed by thyself is good. But i still think service to a NPO related to racial discrimination/intimidation, hate crimes, and or poor inner-city ethnic neighborhoods is a critical part of getting through to the boys.



I can't answer that. I do not know. Dr Smith was at an international peace symposium when the friendship started.


I do know that my ancestors have been tied to organizations that could be terrorist in nature, the Colonist or Torries, The Irish Orangemen and Greenmen, the Calvary or the dog soldiers, depending on which family branch is looked at. The last two examples definitely had deaths attributed to them. Both were considered terrorist by the other. Both thought that they were right, and protecting themselves and their interests.


By the way, how's the weather and snow up there in Buffalo?

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Affairs have taken me to Missouri right now. But apparently there is a lot of snow in Buffalo.


I just find it amusing how Mandela and the ANC are put a such a pedestal but a mere 30 years ago they where shooting and blowing up white people.


It seems you can do whatever you want if it is in the name of anti-apartheid?

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My posts OFTEN disappear when I hit the "back" button from the message preview screen.


Sometimes I could retrieve them by hitting the "forward" arrow, but now I always compose the first draft on my Email software so I have a back-up copy.


Then when I move back and forth in the browser on the final draft, I first hit [Crtl]A to select "all," and [Crtl] C to "copy" it to memory. When the message disappears, I hit [Crtl] V to insert it back onto the screen from memory.

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I have avoided comment so far although I am from the South although not quite as deep as the Gulf Coast. This unit has come close to something like this only a couple of times. I agree with Beavah's measured-yet-firm approach. Our response was immediate and decisive. It worked.

The situation in this case is a bit different but I was struck initially by the observation that "...many of the boys were teasing him and making racial slurs."

I think you cannot allow a practical problem hold your proper response hostage. I would ask the leadership to cancel the next outing rather than to allow these boys on it.

Beavah is right. This has a root in the family and you are probably not going to correct it. By the time they have attained this age, the poison of prejudice has had most of the formative years to settle in their personalities. The best you can do is to cut it out before it poisons the rest of the troop. This means you must at least silence the words. Failing that, you may have to remove boys from the unit.


Believe it or not, this is not a tough decision. The hard part comes after you take the decisive action...and then have to decide where to draw the line. The decision in this case is clear. It won't be so clear if the slur is with regard to, say, someone with a disability or against someone who isn't in the troop, perhaps against gays or people with bald heads. That line will be the tough decision.

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Sorry for the delayed response.  I was just too busy yesterday to type that twice.  Anyway, some things came out last night which put a slightly different spin on everything, so perhaps it was best I did not get that completely out yesterday. 


Regardless, the weekend went well, though there were some unexpected twists.  For starters, SPL was a no show.  He got into some trouble at school and was disrespectful at home on the matter, and his dad said Nix on the hike.  SPLs dad was supposed to come on the hike, and still did.  But Ill talk more about dad and SPL later.


I had a chance to speak with our other offending scout (well call him Shorty, because he is a good shortstop) before the weekend.  And a little more came out over the incident then (and later), but I will give you the readers digest version.  In spite of the confrontation, he and Joseph got along well, and even joked and played as good scouts often do. 


With SPL out of the picture, someone else had to step up to lead the troop.  Our 3 most experienced scouts present were Joseph, Shorty, or Shortys older brother, who got the job.  He is known to be difficult at times, and a little hard natured.  In spite of this, he stepped up to the challenge, and did the best job I have seen a troop leader do at a campout.  He may be a little on the tough side, but he did well; I hope the boys appreciate that later.


I did talk to SPLs dad while we were hiking.  He was unhappy about the incident, but on his own suggested that he be removed from his leadership position.  It was disappointing to have to tell him this, but reassuring that it would not become a second battle.


I spoke to SPL when we came back from the hike.  He was very sheepish about the whole thing, but accepted the seriousness of the situation.  I had told both SPL and Shorty that I expected a 3 month plan of improvement on scout spirit, and that other consequences would be discussed when they met with me to review this plan.  However, after I drove off, SPL suggested to his father that he really didnt say anything to Joseph, and that he did not know what was going on.  I had a subsequent talk with SPL and Shorty last night, and finally, some more specifics of the incident came out.


At last weeks meeting, we had a visitor.  He was a black scout from another troop who was supposed to meet with the DAC about his Eagle Project (our scout hut is where the Lodge meets and other scout meetings often take place there).  By chance this scout was trying to meet his party at the wrong location, but that is rather beside the point, he did not participate in our meeting, and eventually left to the correct destination.  In the dark outside, Shorty came up behind him, slapped him on the back (thinking he was Joseph) and was startled when he realized he wasnt.  He apologized and ran off to SPL and (out of earshot) told him what happened, in less than polite terms.  Joseph heard this, and (as I see now) was upset by the remarks (not addressed directly at him).  But it was the kind of thing he could not leave unchallenged.  Though these remarks were not necessarily taken out of context, neither were they explained accurately in the situation from which they came were made.  I have been able to verify this.


I and other leaders have heard remarks from these two in the past, which were less than complimentary, and we waited to see how they were taken (it is usually best to let boys settle things between themselves).  Joseph has always come back with a laughing, sharp and/or witty reply, and there was seemingly no harm done or taken.  Several of the leaders observed, and even commented on this as big of the boys to not take this as offensive but instead as what it appeared to beboys playfully picking on one another.  It is one thing for Joseph to joke with these boys one on one, but once these boys made the comment about another person, it was no longer acceptable.  Much as the way an older brother may playfully spar with a friend, but when that friend picks on his younger brother, it becomes unacceptable.  Blood is thicker than water, and that is commendable.


We had a COH last night, and these boys got along well the entire night.  SPL even went out of his way to invite Joseph to his table and include him (Joseph is the oldest of the "young" scouts in the troop and usually hangs out more with the older boys).  Joseph joined this troop (when his Webelos buddies went to another--very good--troop which was actually much closer to his house) because he liked the boys in our troop.  He was encouraged to reconsider by his den leader, his Cubmaster (me) and the scoutmaster, because we did not want him to not stay committed and wander out of Scouting.  Boy, were we wrong.  He has missed only one campout in two years, and is the only scout to attend every troop meeting this year.  I often (behind his back) use him as an example of why Webelos should make their own decision on which troop to join.


Regardless, in light of the context of these statements and that these boys continue to get along well, I have decided to lessen the consequence.  I still consider this a serious issue, which must result in an attitude change, but I believe that too much here will likely have a negative effect on all 3 of these scouts.  I still expect a 3 month plan of improvement, but will consider progress when the boys come to me for advancement.  I expect that how they demonstrate their leadership will be a measure of how their dedication to improve. 


I imagine some you may agree with this, and others may not.  I want to hear all you opinions on this, and always, I expect you to be brutally honest.

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I haven't commented much til now but I've been following the discussion and I think you've gotten a lot of good input. I also want to commend you for keeping a cool head and always keeping what's good for the boys firmly in mind.


What you describe in your last post does put a different twist on things. And you're right that sometimes boys who are friends can say things to each other in jest that, put in any other context, would be utterly unacceptable.


But I want to ask you to think about the dynamic a little differently. Often in a setting where there is only one minority member (or a very small group), that person really has little choice about how they respond to "off" comments. They want to fit in, be accepted, have friends in the group. They are likely the only ones to be offended, but they may learn very well how to hide it, roll with it, and joke about it. Sometimes this is a good life lesson. Sometimes, though, it puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to laugh off comments that are pretty offensive to them, and it may also put them constantly on guard, perhaps without them even quite realizing it.


From the other side of the coin, people who have very little interaction with other minorities except for this one individual, might have no idea that their casual and regular actions/teasing are offensive. Until, that is, they start behaving the exact same way to other minorities whom they do not know as well. Thus, they may find themselves in trouble down the road when they say something to someone else, that Joseph would have just laughed off/responded to with a witty or stinging retort. The other person might respond quite differently. At that point, the person making the comment is often unable to understand why they get such a different response, and they get angry at the person they offended rather than recognizing their own inappropriate behavior for what it is. The point is, these boys may be learning a really bad habit here, one that Joseph feels ill-suited to challenge (being the only minority in the group and wanting to fit in), but one that is going to get them in a heap of trouble in the wider world.


The fact that Joseph was so uneasy that he was thinking about quitting, and yet that he came to you and told you about this instead, is telling here. This suggests that perhaps he's not happy about having to frequently roll with the off-hand comments but that nothing has risen to a level that he felt he could truly bring to your attention, until now. And yes, it is "big" of him to cut these kids some slack, but it is very "little" of them to continue doing it and assuming that it is not bothering him much.


So I think you still need to come down fairly hard on this. You do not want these guys to develop, or continue to develop, a habit of off-hand racist comments. You also do not want to continue to put Joseph in a position where, as the only minority, he either has to roll with it or be ostracized. That's damaging to both parties.


(This message has been edited by lisabob)

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Thank you, Lisabob. I don't think I ever disagreed with what you said, and in fact, whether I explained it completely or not, I agree completely.

"... Sometimes, though, it puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to laugh off comments..."This is exactly what is happening here. Joseph wants to fit in, but he has been pressured to "fit in," by going along with it. It is the error of us, as leaders, to have allowed this to continue. Now, this cannot be acceptable any more. In part punishing the boys harshly for this, when we have allowed it to happen,is our failing, as leaders.

I am coming down hard on this, and I believe that all involved see and accept it this way. While riding back from the hike Sunday, one boy who is eccentric (atypical autism?) blurted out a question using the n**** word (not directedat anyone). Joseph (his patrol leader) was in the front seat, and I immediately and decisively responded that using this word was not acceptable anytime. Clearly this scout had no ill intent in the use of the word (you have to understand him), and was not perceived that way by Joseph, but that was not the point. He (and everyone else in the car) needed to understand that it was not acceptable.

Joseph, I do not believe, was really thinking about quitting. He said he was losing interest in coming to meetings (this was a way of reaching out and vocalizing his feelings, and yet, he still came). I really see that these scouts like each other and get along. I want that to continue. If I treat this too harshly, it will become a wedge between these scouts which will divide this troop, and someone will end up leaving or being kicked. I do not believe that either option is acceptable. Likewise, neither do I want to treat this too lightly (with the same result). In spite of the punitive nature of the response, it must be constructively delivered to build a stronger troop. I believe it has been delivered in this manner.

(This message has been edited by Buffalo Skipper)

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Like Lisa, I think you've handled this very well :) ... Remember, you're the one on the ground; sometimes a tiny piece to the puzzle is a bigger key than we think.


On to the holidays and the future :) Your young men are blessed to have you as their Scoutmaster.

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Lisa and John,

Thanks for the encouraging words, but my real thanks are to you and all here who gave me the perspective and advice to resolve this (and other issues). I am glad I found the group.


And I certainly intend to do the best for the boys. In fact, with much soul searching, I am stepping down from most (but not all) of my other scouting positions. Scoutmaster is a job which does not allow for one's time to be divided in so many ways so easily.

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Yah, Buff, more than anything the lads watch how we handle these tough situations, eh? I think you've acted the proper part of a Scoutmaster, and your tenure in the role and the fun you'll have will be all the greater for it.


Scout Salute, mate!




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