If You’re from Al Jazeera, Drive Past Booker, TX

Welcome to Texas! Unless You’re Al Jazeera

Gabriel Elizondo, Brazil-based correspondent for Al Jazeera, was touring the United States talking to random people about how 9/11 changed their lives. It was Friday, and as he was driving through Oklahoma, he saw that high schools were getting ready for football. I guess “Friday Night Lights” reached São Paulo.

He crossed the border into Texas and landed in Booker. Population 1315. He finds the high school and is just in time for the game. He talks to the Principal about his project. All was country gravy until he told her he was from Al Jazeera. She got the Superintendent Lee, who happened to be at the game, to talk to him.

Lee said, “I think it was damn rotten what they did. The people that did this to us.” Surprise, surprise. Elizondo wasn’t allowed to interview, film, or take pictures.

God, how embarrassing. I’m sure he knows that little town in Texas isn’t representative of the United States. What made it more embarrassing though, was Superintendent Lee’s response.

He apologized if he came across as disrespectful and was dealing with an emergency situation. He wouldn’t have allowed any pictures or interviews, anyway, because it would violate students’ FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) rights. Sounds reasonable. Check out his last sentence:

Booker is a community that has accepted diversity for decades including many different faiths. I am sitting here listening to the music from our annual “Fiesta Night” that celebrates the unification of the many cultures that make up our community.

So close, yet no field goal. That was the Booker Superintendent version of “some of my best friends are black.” Listening to Mariachi and eating tamales? Look out César Chávez. Why didn’t he quit while he was sort of ahead? Probably because he isn’t as tolerant as he thinks he is.

Message to Elizondo: Yes, you heard right. This state’s governor is in the lead for the GOP Primary to take on Obama in 2012. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s his really nice hair.


15 responses to “If You’re from Al Jazeera, Drive Past Booker, TX

  • lbwoodgate

    I thought Robb Kendrick gave a pretty well-rounded version of things in the comment section of Mr. Elizondo’s blog where he posted Mr. Lee’s response.

  • lobotero

    Does not surprise me in the least….I live in the Bible Belt and it all sounds so familiar….

  • beaglezmom

    Never underestimate the power of super-hair!

    I am intrigued by the phrase “that has accepted diversity”. They don’t want diversity, they don’t encourage diversity – but they accept it. Like chicken pox. It’s gonna happen, might as well accept it.

  • Terrance H.

    Spinny,

    I’m fortunate, I guess, to be a Yankee, and a Michigander at that. Many parts of Michigan – including where I’m from – are populated with a large number of Muslims. In fact, as I sit in this cafe and look out the window, I can see the Mosque that has just been built. .

    We’re all pretty tolerant around here. People mainly keep their prejudices to themselves. Obviously there are some open bigots, like my father-in-law, who calls Barack Obama a “half-baked n*****.” He’s pretty ignorant.

    • Spinny Liberal

      Yeah that’s what I heard. Dearborn has a large Muslim population. Do you live around there?
      Wow. FIL definitely sounds ignorant.

      • Terrance H.

        Spinny,

        I live in Saginaw, MI. We’re the biggest city north of Flint, and we’re a triple university town (Saginaw Valley State, Northwood, and Davenport). Our Muslim population isn’t as big as those cities down by Detroit (like Dearborn, Farmington Hills, etc…) but it’s still pretty substantial.

        Yes. He is.

    • dcmartin

      Wow. Bet he loves you now that you’ve gone flaming O-bot on him, eh?
      🙂
      Family, gotta love ’em!

      • Terrance H.

        DCMartin,

        My in-laws and I never exactly hit the sweetest notes. We’ve all mellowed out since the birth of my children, however, so we get along now. It’s a tentative relationship.

        I take great care not to say anything too controversial when we talk about politics. I don’t agree with anything he says most often – and this was true even when I was a right-winger, because I always felt he was far too extreme – but I’m not going to change his mind, so there is little point in creating an argument.

        I don’t appreciate the racist and dehumanzing comments he directs toward blacks, gays, women, and poor people, but he doesn’t do it around my children, and he treats them really, really well. He spoils them, in fact. I find this to be extraordinary because he is only my wife’s step-father. He is of no blood relation to my children at all. Her real father – a man I liked dearly – succumbed to lung cancer about 10 years ago, when we were still in H.S. Her step-father is the only grandfather on her side that my children known. All in all, he’s not a bad guy; he’s just a simpleton.

  • Snoring Dog Studio

    I don’t know. I’m on the fence here because when people recount their conversations, memories fail and not much probably resembles what happened in actuality. I can certainly see how the Principal might have been distracted and not at his best attentiveness. I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I would hope the two could get back together to have a conversation – that’s planned, not a surprise visit.

    • Spinny Liberal

      I can see your point. Although, he could have asked him to wait so he could explain further. Instead, he chose, “Nope, bye bye now.” He said he looked for him after, but why would he stick around if he was shut down?

  • WhatWouldYouDoInTheSameSituation?

    It would seem to me that this reporter got exactly what he intended to get, and his reporting of this confirms it.
    1. He says in his blog post “Al Jazeera is not welcome here,” but nobody and nowhere is he told to leave.
    2. His most inflammatory comments are all his personal interpretation of looks & statements, but not comments themselves. An example of this is the returning of a business card. I’ve never heard that returning someone’s business card is “a true sign of patronizing disrespect” as claimed by the journalist.

    Now please do not read this as a defense of open-mindedness and multi-culturalism in Texas. I’ve lived in Fort Worth (8 years) and in Austin (5 year), and while many Texans are warm and welcoming there are more than plenty of examples of bigotry and ignorance to go around. It sounds like both Mr. Lee and Ms. Yauck lost a great opportunity to demonstrate the former rather than leave the impression of the latter, but it doesn’t sound like they ever told him to leave, they only told him he could not film or interview people on school property (which is not “public property”, hence the cost of admission).

    Seems like another sad example of both side’s allowing prejudices and misinterpretations to lead people on both sides of this issue to confirm what they want to believe in the first place. What a wasted opportunity.

    • Spinny Liberal

      First, thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

      I don’t know if I would make the assumption that he got what he intended to get. Even though no one told him to leave, he wasn’t welcome.

      “Well, I guess I am not welcome here,” I say to her.
      She just sort of nods and gives me a fake sympathetic, “Oh, OK,” thing. And a smirk. She doesn’t get up. Her big Texas hospitality smile still hasn’t reappeared. At least not with me. I seemed terrific to her 15 minutes ago, but now I am toxic, I guess.

      Her demeanor changed when she found out he was from Al Jazeera. I know one could say this is a case of “personal interpretation,” but getting the Superintendent involved showed she wasn’t too thrilled with the idea anymore. Up until the “I’m from Al Jazeera thing,” she was excited:

      “So you will need to send me the link of this when it goes on the internet or whatever,” she says.

      As far as the school not being public property, it is, but its access is limited. I don’t think the cost of admission has anything to do with it as many public high school games are free. It is a nonpublic forum, though – which is why I found the Superintendent’s emphasis on “public” strange:

      Also, I would have asked you not to do those things at a public event, on public property and at a public school function.

      Anyway, I agree that it was a wasted opportunity. I would have liked to hear some of the people’s responses.

      Thanks again for commenting. Hope you visit again. 🙂

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