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Trevorum

... a brother to every other Scout?

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The current thread about sending scouts home from camp got me to thinking about a recent experience.

 

We were cooking dinner after a long, weary day on the trail. A couple of fellows who had been getting on each others nerves all day started to bicker about some nonsense. Suddenly, the comments turned personal. One fellow then retorted to the other using a notorious racial slur. There was a slit second of stunned silence by everyone. I remember thinking, "Did he actually say that? Then, our SPL jumped in with both feet, letting the fellow know in no uncertain terms that that kind of language was NOT going to be tolerated under ANY circumstances. The offending scout mumbled an apology and slunk off. Terrifically proud of the SPL, I did not step in then myself but I later talked privately to both fellows, apologizing to the one for the hurtfulness and making sure the other knew why his apology was necessary. Later, the rest of the fellows chewed on this unexpected drama for a while, expressing their disgust at the offending scout and his archaic opinions. The following day it was clear that he was being subtly shunned by the whole group. After a couple more days, things reached an equilibrium and everyone was again joking together. I doubt that the slur had been forgotten, but the other guy was willing to let it go, at least in public, for the sake of teamwork.

 

This was the first time in Scouting I had experienced this type of blatant racism and it totally took me by surprise. I guess I had assumed that scouts were beyond that type of thinking and that we were all "brothers to every other Scout."

 

So, has anyone experienced this type of overt racism in their unit? How did you handle it?

 

Thanks,

trevorum

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I have a mixed bag troop and have had no problems along these lines.

 

Stosh

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For my rather non-diverse city we have a fairly diverse Troop, economically as well as racially. Native American, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, and a (don't attack me, his own title) Proud Black American.

 

The comments that I've heard made(and was initially inclined to stop) tend to be what you would expect from real mixed brothers and I have never heard them make the same comments to any other Scout or any other person, but among themselves they seem to have taken it as a right of brothers to harass each other a little bit(a reason I am monitoring but haven't stopped it). No one gets upset or complains, they seem to do it "in fun", stop at the first sign that anyone shows annoyance - and do small corrections on the one who crossed the line, and it all goes both ways up and down Scout ranks and both ways across all the "available" divisions. They also never do it when they are really upset at each other about something else.

 

If anyone does get upset or it goes too far in an attack mode instead of some light verbal jousting I will however, try to stop it if the SPL or PL's haven't already, quick and in a hurry.

 

So racial divisions exist(but not necessarily within the Troop), they are aware of them and the limits of expression but no "problems" with racism so far.

 

I'm in a bit of a quandary here because it seems like this is part of the life laboratory where they get to explore a bit and do so because they trust each other and the group as a whole - and so far the trust appears to have been warranted. But, also where some folks will think that it's unthinkable to allow it to continue. As long as no one is taking offense, and there are no hurt feelings about it. I am not inclined to try to stop it as I think that would merely drive it underground where they would just do it in their Patrols at times where I won't hear it.

 

So in a sense, while they are after each other a little bit, they are doing it just like brothers.(This message has been edited by Gunny2862)

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Just out of curiosity - where was the SPL, or the adults leaders, when these lads started to bicker in the first place? Why was it not dealt with before it got personal?

 

Calico

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This sounds like a mid-trek Philmont moment. Scouts are tired, irritable and some strange dynamics start happening. In our trek, one scout who is autistic had a melt down during dinner one night and went off the deep end. The SPL pulled him aside and calmed him down then had a talk to all the other scouts about the incident. By the next morning, all was forgotten and the crew merrily moved down the trail.

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>>This sounds like a mid-trek Philmont moment. Scouts are tired, irritable and some strange dynamics start happening.

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Stress and exhaustion can, howevever, sometimes expose how people really feel - those deep inner thoughts.

 

Hurrah for your SPL!

 

I've never encountered racism in Scouts, let alone that sort of language.

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Cannot help but be reminded of how much respect often is exhibited in scouting that is not in general society. Way back in 1979 I had a crew of 5 at Philmont (the era before 2 deep). It happened that there were a lot of extra hikers from outside the U.S. due to the cancellation of the World Jambo in Iran and the opening of Philmont to many of those groups. We ran into a full crew of scouts from South Africa (still Aparthide then)whose crew leader was black, but all the rest were white. The leader appeared to have the absolute complete respect of all the others. Said a lot to me, and impressed my crew as well, as they were old enough to understand the apparent anomoly.

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A couple of times, but at least once when it was among adults (but in front of scouts). A former adult leader from our troop made some ethnic slurs about a woman who had recently walked past the assembled troop (in a public area) and I pointed out the fallacy of his statements. He then made additional offensive comments and ended with the statement to the effect that anyway, she couldn't have been an American because she was speaking another language (on her cell phone) so why did anybody care what he called her! He got an earful from some folks. From that point I noticed the other adult leaders also shunned him and he (and his son, unfortunately) quit the troop shortly after that. This same fellow had a very poor attitude toward one of the scouts in the unit who was of the ethnic background that he felt so free to insult. I wasn't sorry to see him go and I was happy to know that other adults in the group were unwilling to encourage such behavior.

 

Last year, our troop was discussing the possibility of doing a couple of joint camp outs with an inner city troop. A couple of boys made comments that reflected their lack of contact with people of other backgrounds except maybe as stereotypes from movies (nothing as offensive as what I read your post to suggest Trev, but still bigoted). As in your situation, other boys stepped in to put a stop to such comments and point out why they were inappropriate.

 

Good for your SPL that he handled the situation so well.

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wow, your SPL will make it far in life if he has that much backbone among his peers now; you have every right to be proud of him!

 

We actually had an 'incident' with Webelos at cub camp last week. We weren't aware of it until a mom came storming in demanding to know what we were doing about the boy who called her son and his friend "those black boys" and "rotten jerks" We spent a good hour sorting out the situation with several of the boys involved- Ultimately, the 'name caller' (who happens to also be african American), was consoling his best friend (an italian American kid), who the two AA kids had (among many other things) been making snide remarks about his lack of athletic ability. He pointed to a group of 4 kids, said "don't worry about what those black boys said, they are just rotten jerks anyway."

We ended up reprimanding the initial two who'd complained to mom for non-scoutlike behavior (exessive competitiveness, pushing, pretty much just being rotten jerks, really), as well as letting the other two know that ANY time they were unhappy with the way other boys were treating them, they could come to us and we'd respond immidiatly.

 

I guess my point is that you need to investigate before you cry racism. Kids in our area are for the most part very tolerant- they have to be, it's too diverse to be racist and survive grade school. But they still refer to others as "that black kid in the red shirt" and "the white kid with the hat"- IMO perfectly acceptable descriptive terms. I do step in when the kids call each other "my N-ggas", as well as when they say "my dawgs" just because it's innapropriate- they aren't being racist, just repeating what the 'cool' teenagers say.

 

Trevorum, your boy in that instance was definatly being ignorant, and the recipient showed pretty storn moral character by being able to forgive.

I guess my point was that as the (sometimes only) upstanding adult in a childs' life, we need to explain to them WHY some things are innapropriate to say because often they really DON'T know.

 

I advocate zero tolerance with a good, healthy dose of common sense!

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"We ended up reprimanding the initial two who'd complained to mom for non-scoutlike behavior (exessive competitiveness, pushing, pretty much just being rotten jerks, really), as well as letting the other two know that ANY time they were unhappy with the way other boys were treating them, they could come to us and we'd respond immidiatly. "

 

Hello gcan,

 

One man's opinion here. It may be the minority.

 

Part of what kids need to learn and practice is how to handle these situations themselves. When they are adults, there will not necessarily be others around willing or able to handle these situations. Even as older youth, they may need to handle it more themselves.

 

It is totally appropriate to suggest that if they want to come to you, you'll handle it. But I am not sure it is appropriate to expect that they will come to you. They do need to learn to handle it themselves.

 

This is such a mind-bogglingly sensitive area. With some persons looking for any conceivable opportunity to feel discrimination, it can be almost impossible to tiptoe through the mindfield. And that is particularly true as youth love to say things that they know will cause a major reaction.

 

It sounds as if you handled it well. You did your best. That is all you can do. It is impossible always to be right in this area.

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I have long discovered that elemetry grade level kids are very literal when it comes to race. My daughter for instance can't help but refer to someone as "The Mexican girl", or "that black boy". There is nothing racist at all about it. In her mind, a skin color description is no different that of hair color. I am actually kinda sad that I find it neccessary to explain to her how adults may not view it that way. Sadly it is the adults and not the kids that are usually oversensative. My daughter for instance has several black and hispanic close friends. (I appologize to anyone offended here but I refuse to use terms such as African-American, etc. You either are American or your not, your ethnic backgroud has nothing to do with it and terms like this only serve to divide us not unite us.)

 

BTW, hurah to your SPL. I hope that you met with him in private later and told him how exemplary his response was.(This message has been edited by pack212scouter)

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Gern and Barry are right - this episode was mid-trek at Philmont.

 

The new Scout had recently joined our crew from another unit that is located in a different part of town. We had all been on a few shakedowns together and I thought that everyone was getting along pretty well. Some of our guys were clearly very easy with racial interactions, but there was one other fellow who always kept his distance from the new guy. He was barely polite. I surmised that he probably had some hidden prejudices - probably learned at home, but I have known this kid for years and I honestly never thought that this type of venom would spew forth. It was cracklingly offensive.

 

To his credit, he later told me it was a problem he knew he had and that he was trying to grow past it. I hope the episode, and everyone else's responses to it, perhaps serve towards that end.

 

I still feel really badly that it happened at all. I know that our guest has returned to his home unit with a mixed bag of memories from Philmont, and of our host unit.

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