Dallas School Stops Valedictorian’s Graduation Speech After She Mentions Trayvon Martin And Tamir Rice

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["Speaking Truth To Empower"]
Rooha Haghar's graduation speech was stopped when she mentioned Trayvon Martin's name...
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Valedictorian Rooha Haghar's graduation speech was stopped when she mentioned Trayvon Martin's name...

During her graduation speech, valedictorian Rooha Haghar’s mic was muted by officials, at Dallas’ Emmett J. Conrad High School—once she uttered the names: Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.

Haghar said she was warned beforehand not to put their names in her speech.

School officials deny they muted Haghar’s mic. According to Haghar, they claim they just experienced “a technical difficulty.” Somehow, this, coincidentally, happened right after she invoked the names of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.

The censoring of Ms. Hagar from mentioning Trayvon’s and Tamir’s names mirrors the larger refusal by America’s political leaders to address institutional racism—and violence by police.

Last weekend, Rooha Haghar, and Iranian-American, was well into her valedictorian graduation speech. But her microphone was cut after she said these words "To Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and all the other children who became victims of injustice…" Then her voice was silenced. Haghar tweeted that school officials "played it off as a technical difficulty."

In a viral video of Haghar’s graduation speech, school Principal Temesghen Asmerom can be seen signaling to someone right after Haghar speaks Trayvon Martin’s name. Principal Asmerom, who is Black, immediately looks up as Hagar says Martin’s name. After this, he is seen looking toward someone—most likely the audio engineer—he then touches his throat area, before giving a thumbs up signal. The mic then goes silent. Moments later, Asmerom steps to the microphone making it obviously clear Haghar’s speech is being cut short. He taps the microphone which is now magically on again. He then mutters something like “sorry for the mic.”

Principal Asmerom should be sorry for trampling on the Haghar’s free speech rights.

In looking at the video, it seems evident Principal Asmerom’s intent was to silence Haghar from speaking out on this topic. Moreover, Haghar stated she had been told previously to delete the references to Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice by Principal Asmerom. She said he told her it didn’t conform to "DISD [Dallas Independent School District] valedictorian speech guidelines." Haghar said Asmerom told her to make vaguer references on injustice—and to not explicitly mention Black people.

DISD put out a statement saying, “In Dallas ISD, we educate leaders of tomorrow and encourage student voices, and we are looking into this matter.”

On Twitter, Haghar shared parts of her valedictorian speech that were cut short. "To Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and all the other children who became victims of injustice ... To the kids across the globe affected by war, famine, persecution and child labor who have lost years of education due to hunger, displacement, lack of finances and lack of educational resources, I'm sorry."

In a Washington Post interview, Haghar said Principal Ashmerom told her using the names of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice wouldn’t foster change. According to Haghar, Principal Ashmerom told her she isn’t in a position of power, like a politician.

“I don’t think he had a problem with my speech, and his intentions were not rooted in hate, but him saying that me mentioning those names won’t make a difference is something I disagreed with,” said Haghar. “I told him how some of us won’t ever have a position of power, so to just sit there and wait is the wrong mind-set to have.”

Haghar says another teacher also told her not to use the names of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice—or, reference the names of Michael Brown and Jordan Davis. That teacher told her using those names would be too political.

"I was told mentioning those names will incite anger towards White people, a group which according to him experience high levels of discrimination in America," tweeted Haghar. "He advised me to take that line out completely. I didn't."

Haghar said she was surprised by the censorship actions of school officials.

“I knew there would be consequences, but sometimes you have to face the consequences because it’s needed,” said Haghar. “But I never expected them to silence me right there.”

Haghar explained part of her reasoning for talking about these issues was to impress upon other high schoolers to take advantage of their opportunities. Haghar, and her family, moved to Dallas in 2012, after reportedly facing years of religious oppression in Iran, because of their Baha’i faith.

“Our four years of high school have been surrounded with issues like police brutality, politics we’re not okay with and school shootings,” said Haghar. “We’ve been living with this reality for a while. I wasn’t introducing something new at graduation.”

The behavior of these school officials at Emmett J. Conrad High School highlights the contemptible cowardice American leaders across the spectrum have in honestly discussing issues of race. Unlike our weak-willed emasculated leaders, Ms. Haghar attempted to speak on the racial violence that took the young lives of Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice, by a police officer, and a wannabe officer. The muting of her microphone is symbolic of the larger self-censorship that occurs now among professional politicians whenever the topic turns to race.

There is now a conspiracy of silence occurring in Congress—where no one wants to genuinely address racial policing.

At this very moment, twentysomething Democrats are trying to unseat Donald Trump and ascend to the White House. Most are speaking to Americans on a range of topics like healthcare, economics, education, employment, housing, etc. But, as a policy issue, none of them is championing the need to eradicate the racist violence that infects America’s police departments. All are afraid of the police, and their unprincipled unions. Unfortunately, these career politicians don’t care enough about Black lives to stand up on principle and denounce racial violence in policing.

This week, we witnessed another scandal because of the recent Plain View Project (PVP) investigation of police social media postings, news of which was published by Injustice Watch and BuzzFeed News. These social media postings illustrate the deep racism of many police officers far beyond any small problem of just a “few bad apples.” Officers, in their Facebook posts, routinely and cavalierly talked about victimizing—and killing—Black people.

How is this not worthy of discourse by Democrats who wanted to ascend to the White House?

Several months ago, the Black Star News emailed most—Beto O’Rourke is an exception—of the, then, major Democratic candidates running for president, in 2020. We wanted them to state their policy positions in regard to changing institutional racism in American policing.

To date, only Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has responded. Senator Warren sent us a copy of her September 27, 2015 speech at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. In it she noted that police “violence against African-Americans has not disappeared.” She also talked about “the names of those whose lives have been treated with callous indifference. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown.”

But invoking these names, is something Democratic Party presidential candidates usually avoid like the plague. They want the votes of Black America, but they don’t want to fight for our rights against one of the worst problems we face: being victimized by racist police. How is it possible that police violence and murder is not now a top priority in the Democratic Party?

Democrats are probably hoping the media blackout on police violence will give the false sense that racial policing is being addressed. But Black Americans know the police violence and murders continue—even though the news reporting on these atrocities has shrunk. Media gatekeepers decided sometime after the upheavals that transpired in the Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray cases, to limit the showing of videos where police are caught brutalizing Blacks. The motto seems to be “out of sight, out of mind.”

The silencing of valedictorian Rooha Haghar by school officials at Dallas’ Emmett J. Conrad High School represents a part of the collective silence that many Americans are guilty of when it comes to racial policing.

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