Blow Hard

Week of March 5, 2003

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Blow Hard
Slip-sliding away: You're getting dangerously close to the end of the slippery slope from irreverence to irrelevance. First you fabricate a cover story on a supposed middle-school basketball phenom. Next you feature on your cover a story about a white girl blathering on a local hip-hop station [Randall Roberts, "Home Girl," February 26]. All this adds up to a continuing waste of space. What's next, a cover story on that age-old St. Louis question of immense sociological impact: What high school did you graduate from? Oh wait, I almost forgot -- we don't need that cliché, because you're quickly becoming your own. And like your recent cover girl/"White Girl" blatherer Jessica Dana, sporting a face full of bubble gum, you're blowing it.
Burton St. John III
St. Louis

I Like Linda
And liberals like me: Regarding the "Class War" article [Jeannette Batz, February 26], which was generally fair and balanced, I wish only to correct two possible misimpressions the reader might have been left with. First, even though it is true I have had major disagreements with Linda Henke, the superintendent of Maplewood-Richmond Heights schools, over pedagogical theory and practice, I respect her personally as a brilliant, energetic and well-intentioned, if at times misguided, educator. Second, even though it is also true that I have appeared on a number of conservative radio shows across the country, my book has received rave reviews from several highly respected, including liberal, sources, such as the director of the Brown Center on Educational Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Library Journal, the main gatekeeper for academic and public libraries in the United States (whose November 15 review called my study "highly recommended" and compared it favorably to recent books by Diane Ravitch of NYU and Sam Wineburg of Stanford).
J. Martin Rochester
St. Louis

Shades of Shahid
Old-school style: Kudos to the Riverfront Times for breaking its apparent journalistic shackles and publishing its most readable issue since New Times elbowed in. Not only were we treated to a smart essay on the band Tone Rodent by Jason Wallace Triefenbach ["Radar Station"], but the dynamic duo of Jeannette Batz and Jennifer Silverberg rocked it old-school-style and [produced] one fine piece of journalism ["Who's Afraid of Anthony Shahid?" February 19]. It's truly pathetic, this world in which petty city politics presents obstacles to the efforts of someone whose work has obvious positive impact on the lives of disenfranchised children. Not many a great man throughout history has enjoyed fewer powerful enemies than friends, as the lives of Jesus Christ and Dr. King can attest. This city needs Mr. Shahid, and I ain't scared to say so.
Hunter Brumfield
O'Fallon, Missouri

Your hatchet missed: I'm sure that Jeannette Batz meant to demonize Anthony Shahid in her story. She did a good job at it, too. But wasn't that what Shahid was protesting against -- the demonizing of blacks? Society categorizes blacks and divides us into two distinct camps -- good or bad. Batz and the artist make sure you know what category Shahid is in -- he's a bad Negro that scares me and the good Negroes, too. She even got so-called black leaders to buy into the scheme by saying that he is loud and abrasive and irritates the white power structure. That racist Aunt Jemima-inside-a-Klan-robe caricature is meant to reinforce this demonizing of Shahid. But Batz failed. She mentioned how effectively he communicates with young black men. It is a gift many parents and teachers wish that they had. In turn, they trust him and, in spite of the National Network's statement, he has an agenda: Put up that gun; that's for people who are afraid. Fear no man; we are equals. Stop the violence. This hatchet job of a story is a failure! Shahid is still raging about the taking of a vision from our black youngsters, and he will be blessed for it.
John McClain
St. Louis

He looks great in white: Through his racism and his anti-white paranoia, Anthony Shahid proves time and again that he truly is our town's own minor-league version of Louis Farrakhan. And like Minister Farrakhan, all the good Shahid manages to accomplish working with gangs and crack addicts is undone by his hateful separatist ideology. Shahid never should have removed the Ku Klux Klan robes he donned for his protest of the allegedly racist University City calendar. He's really nothing but an Imperial Wizard wannabe in blackface.
Paris Greer
St. Louis

He's no Martin or Malcolm: As usual, Jeannette Batz did an exemplary job exploring her subject. Her story on Anthony Shahid gave readers a balanced and interesting portrait of the man. With regard to Mr. Shahid himself, the impression I have is that if one objects to his "style," that's because he makes one think about one's own racism. Dismiss him as a hollow demagogue, and one is instantaneously allied with local and historical racist oppression. I'm left to conclude that the only posture available to any white person regarding Shahid's "message" is the unequivocal admission of scurrilous, covert and overt alliance with racist oppression. To argue with his damning assessment would be to manifest commitment to the deeply inculcated aforementioned alliance and the denial necessary to perpetuate its existence. Are you an alcoholic? Yes? Come this way, please. No? Ah, denial. Come this way, please. Why even ask in the first place? Why attempt dialogue? Why argue? Apparently it's preferable to simplistically stifle the very possibility of progress and communication between blacks and whites in St. Louis while condemning and intimidating both with names and inane guerrilla theatrics. What a racket. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X would both throw up.
Christian S. Saller
St. Louis

Picking on Peter Pan
Childish, yes; child molester, no: Is it shock value the Riverfront Times strives for at times instead of professional journalism? There wasn't a shred of decency in condemning Michael Jackson through innuendo as a pedophile without solid proof [Daniel Durchholz, "Man in the Mirror," February 19]. The law provides for innocence until proven guilty. Mr. Durchholz shatters this fairness allotted to every citizen. Michael Jackson may come across as childish and the epitome of Hollywood's insecurity with looks. Perhaps Michael is no more superficial and juvenile than American society. If the accusations of pedophilia are true, then Michael should be held fully accountable for his actions. Until then, hold the public lynching until all the facts are in.
Lynetta D. Curtis

Evil Doings
Can you spell "pre-emption"? There is no moral justification for the United States' going to war with Iraq [Jeannette Batz, "A Matter of Honor," February 26]. You cannot punish someone (or some country) for a crime that they may, at some point, commit. That said, U.S. foreign policy has never been particularly concerned with morality. Speak democratically, but carry a big stick. As I understand it, President George W. Bush justifies this war using Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. This justifies war, regardless of the civilian casualties that might be incurred, because the hypothetical murder of an American is worth more than the actual murder of an Iraqi. And of course only America, and her equally infallible allies, should possess weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. government (and the United Kingdom) supported Saddam Hussein during his most evil acts, including the gassing of the Kurds and the Anfal massacres. They gave him the tools and the knowledge to make his weapons of mass destruction. What has he done recently that is so much more evil than killing innocent people?
David Royal

Missing Ray
And Speedy, too: As a faithful reader of the Riverfront Times, I regret to say that I have pretty much had it. As disappointed as I was when Ray Hartmann sold the paper, I was able to suck it up and accept the fact that the publication I had grown to admire wouldn't ever be quite the same. But the recent loss of Speedloader and a number of other hard-hitting fixtures that made the RFT worth reading to me has squandered my faith in your publication. St. Louis is a city with very serious problems and the only publication in town that would cover the down and dirty issues has abandoned them in favor of pop-culture fluff. The RFT has let St. Louis down by straying from its original alternative agenda by becoming a hokey print version of Elimidate. I hope something better comes along soon. St. Louis deserves it.
Randy Vines
St. Louis

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