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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Chatham Student “Slave Auction” draws attention to upswing in state racism

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / March 17, 2022

Ashley Palmer with her son, Jeremiah and husband, Eddie.

GOLDSTON – Activists and community leaders in Chatham County are demanding that the Chatham County Board of Education take decisive action to quell an alleged series of racist incidents, which include no less than White students “selling” Black classmates at so-called “slave auctions.”

The alleged incidents came to light when Ashley Palmer, the White mother of a bi-racial son, Jeremiah, charged on Facebook earlier this month that he had been “sold” by White classmates at J.S. Waters Middle School baseball field in Goldston.

The school is 68 percent White, 12 percent Black and 12 percent Hispanic.

“Our son experienced a slave auction by his classmates and when he opened up, we were made aware that this type of stuff seems to be the norm so much that he didn’t think it was worth sharing,” Mrs. Palmer wrote on Facebook March 4. “His friend “went for $350” and another student was the Slave master because he “knew how to handle them.” We even have a video of students harmonizing the N word.”

When Mrs. Palmer complained, the White student was suspended for one day, but then “accidentally” hit Jeremiah four times with a baseball bat afterwards.

“Since when were children so blatantly racist? Why is this culture acceptable? [Chatham County Schools] was made aware and is intervening but hug your babies especially the ones that are subject to racism by students and faculty. Parents teach your kids that this behavior isn’t ok. Teach them also that SILENCE IS COMPLICITY! Laughter is even worse. Thankfully, Jeremiah is a strong unapologetically Black young man and I’m so proud of how tactfully he has handled these repulsive situations. He is stronger than ever, and we will continue to do our part to make sure every racist child and faculty member is reported for every blatant act and microaggression he experiences.”

Palmer later added that she and her husband, Eddie, are working with the Chatham County Public Schools superintendent, and the school principal. The system sent letters to the school’s parents, assuring them that racism was ‘unacceptable,” though it remained vague as to what had transpired.

It’s the latest episode of racism against Black students that is capturing the attention of the state and nation, though it seems to have escaped the attention of conservative leaders like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who, along with fellow Republicans, has not missed the opportunity to charge that teaching how racism is a constant feature of American history is “bad” for students.
In this case, say critical observers, racism is not being taught to students, but is being imposed on students, African American students specifically in rural Chatham County. Parents and progressive activists want to see a decisive end to it before it gets worse.

On Monday, various parents and a coalition of local groups who call themselves CORE (Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity) held a press conference and went before the Chatham County School Board with a list of demands to account for Ashley Palmer’s son being racially bullied “in the presence of [school] staff and faculty, while being filmed.”

Upon further digging, it was determined that several other Black students were victims of some of the same racist treatment.

“These [White] students were emboldened to not only commit brazen and overt acts of racism but to retaliate further and continue their aggression after serving a perfunctory one-day suspension,” the CORE press release continued, referring to the alleged baseball bat incident.

CORE is demanding that offending White students be made to apologize to their targeted Black classmates and the school community for their actions; that child trauma counselors who are skilled in racial trauma be available to Black students targeted; and that the school system student code of conduct be revised “to designate racist and discriminatory remarks as hate speech separate from the current bullying policy with corresponding consequences that match the severity of this abuse our children face.”

CORE also wants school personnel fired for racist remarks and behaviors, and a review of the school administration’s previous response to past racist incidents to determine their effectiveness.

“Until Chatham County Schools implements these community-driven recommendations, our community will continue to see no dedicated commitment to dismantling the culture of racism in our schools,’ the CORE press release concluded.

Monday night, the Chatham County School Board listened as concerned citizens packed the meeting room while several speakers, including other Black parents of other targeted students, talked about the pain their children also experienced.

Superintendent Anthony Jackson publicly apologized to those negatively affected, as the board unanimously voted for policy changes to guard against future racist acts by students or staff.


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