Shannon Cooper Meet Stereotype: Black People and "Holding Applause" at High School Graduation

(PK Note: New, in-depth articles are coming back. Had four articles to finish for other publications – that were eating at me for more than a month – and they are now done. Let the games begin.)

Rules? What rules? How dare you try and keep me from celebrating my baby’s accomplishment!

On December 14, 2010, this was published at SBPDL: #45. Holding Applause until all Names have been Called at Graduation Ceremonies:

 Commencement: the end of one thing, the start of another. High school and college graduation ceremonies offer the graduate an opportunity to reflect upon the time, effort and sacrifices put into earning their degree. Surrounded by friends and family, faculty, pomp and circumstance and the tapestries of pageantry, the graduate now holds a degree that will help them pursue their dreams.

Conversely, it offers the family members and brood of the graduate an opportunity to revel in the pupil’s accomplishments. Proud parents, grandparents, uncles/aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins and girlfriends/boyfriends sit in rapt attention to bask in the moment of the graduate, living vicariously through that person’s accomplishments.

At every graduation ceremony across the nation –whether high school, college, or post-graduate work– a simple request is requested prior to the festivities commencing: please hold applause until all graduates have been announced.

Though the graduation ceremony is an opportunity to honor the individual, the event is largely a ritual connecting the new graduates to the alumni and instilling bonds to the traditions that are unique to that institution.

At every graduation ceremony across the nation that simple request for silence goes unacknowledged by one group of people, and this subversive response to the laws governing civility is never on greater display then during this sacred event.

Black people find the rigid formality on display at graduation ceremonies boorish and fascistic, an encumbrance on their natural predisposition to be loud and extroverted, and instead subscribe to the theory of vociferous and thunderous applause once the name of their son or daughter is called.

The auditorium, stadium or arena hosting the graduation ceremony will reverberate with the intense cacophony of “hoots” and “hollers” once the Black student strides across the stage to receive their diploma, basking in the sounds of adulation from family members while white people look on in a stoic sense of mock disbelief (snickering privately at the outlandish outbursts).

Tonya Brown of Carolina Live reports a story that confirms all that you already knew:

Shannon Cooper cheered as her daughter walked across the stage to get her diploma from South Florence High School Saturday night, but just minutes later, Shannon was handcuffed and arrested.

“Are ya’ll serious? Are ya’ll for real? I mean, that’s what I’m thinking in my mind. I didn’t say anything. I was just like OK, I can’t fight the law. I can’t argue with the police, but I’m like are you serious? I didn’t do any more than the others did. Which I feel like no one should have went to jail,” said Shannon.

Florence police charged Shannon with disorderly conduct.

She said officers walked her across the Florence Civic Center, where the graduation ceremony was being held, in full view of everyone, including her daughter, Iesha Cooper, 18.

“Humiliation. I don’t even think humiliation could describe how I felt. You know, because I feel from just my feelings and then looking at my daughter how she felt, I could take you know you know if I did something ,but like I said, yes they said you’ll be escorted out no problem. I’ll be escorted out. I’ll go nicely because I’m gonna cheer. It was hard work. I went through so much to get her to this point you know,” explained Shannon.

Her daughter, Iesha, said she didn’t really know what was going on until friends told her her mother was being arrested.

“They’re locking your momma up for cheering – and I was like that isn’t right because other people was cheering and they didn’t lock them up,” said Iesha.

Police said it was announced before the ceremony that anyone who cheered or screamed would be escorted out of the building.

Florence police wouldn’t speak to us about individual cases, but said the people who got disorderly when they were escorted out of the civic center were arrested.

“Disorderly conduct? What’s the disorderly conduct? How was I so disorderly you know any different from just a happy parent? I didn’t resist arrest, nothing,” Shannon responded.

She said she waited in a police van parked outside the civic center for about 45 minutes until officers took her to the Florence County Detention Center. She said her daughter came outside and just broke down crying after seeing her mother in a police van on her graduation day.

“I couldn’t talk to her or nothing. Nothing at all. Just look from in the van in handcuffs for cheering,” said Shannon.

“That’s all I can picture, me crying, looking at the police van knowing my mother is in there,” said Iesha.

Shannon was booked at the detention center and stayed there for several hours until posting a $225 bond.

She said her graduation plans for her daughter had to be postponed, and what should have been one of the happiest days in her life was one of the worst.

“Yesterday can’t be replaced. I’m gonna remember. She gonna remember for the rest of her life. My mama went to jail on my graduation day,” said Iesha.

Iesha is right: Yesterday can’t be replaced. Nor can the fact that, like her mother, she will now become a full-fledged drain on the tax-payers of South Carolina.

America needs an enema. 



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