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Posted on Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:56 a.m.

Where is the community outrage over black doll hanging incident in an Ann Arbor schoolyard?

By Guest Column

Someone wrapped a chain around the neck of a black doll, tossed it into a tree and left it hanging, to be discovered by elementary-school-aged children, and I am told I should not be concerned.

The episode took place at a public school with a “small black student population” and the “the position of the doll did not resemble a hanging.” Besides, this black doll with a chain around its neck was only seen by a “few” fifth-grade girls, who handled the incident “maturely.”


Caption for photo: Children play outside on the playground at Burns Park on March13. A black doll with a chain wrapped around its neck was discovered in a tree near the playground earlier that day.

Chris Asadian I

The principal’s subsequent actions of sending emails to parents and having a school psychologist available the next day for students are offered as assurances that I should not be concerned.

The incident is reported in the local newspaper, featuring the reactions of amazed parents and comments from the readership. The incident then becomes a story on local television news where it is passively dismissed with pledges of police surveillance and the school’s final assertion that it was the work of an “outsider,” and I should not be concerned.

Well, I am concerned. Concerned and disgusted by these events.

My first concern is that this deed, whether dressed up as an “innocent student prank” or the deliberate action of someone outside the school community, is blatantly racist.

Secondly, it is of concern that those responsible for the education of our children and for shaping young minds refuse to acknowledge and address the existence, even the possible existence, of racism in the Ann Arbor community. In their efforts to color this incident as a non-incident, they have granted the perpetrator(s) support, validation and a pardon while the victims are left with empty assurances and outrage.

Two years ago, this community was filled with outrage and concern when white elementary-school-aged children were thought to be excluded from an achievement gap program. That same support should have been demonstrated here.

Charles A. Lewis lives in Ann Arbor.



Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

Again, if the little girls, amongst whom several were Black felt the need to report this to an adult at the school because they knew that something about that doll hanging in the tree made them uncomfortable enough to report it, then we should all be concerned. Its interesting that the adults who initially surveyed this scene were all white and reported that it did not seem like a hanging. There is an old saying..."It depends on whose OX is being gored." as to how we view things.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

Who would you suggest they brought in to survey the scene? Al Sharpton or the New Black Panther Party?


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

A wise old law enforcement profession who I admire greatly used to list his phone number in the phone book, something almost no cop does due to keeping bad guys from calling and making threats. When I asked him why he did that, he said the people who call never tell you who they are, and you do not have to be afraid of the anonymous ones, you only have to fear the ones who do. The anonymous are cowards. So when I lived alone after divorce and wanted to talk to anybody, even someone who would threaten me, I decided to list my number. I never did get any nasty phone calls. But I will always remember that I have nothing to fear from anonymous cowards. This is why I do not express severe outrage over this, and I would suggest others also consider this was done by a cowardly person who will never do it in person.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 4:17 p.m.

Oops, I meant "professional" sorry.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Why would even allow this letter to be published.This was brought up yesterday by another reader and I agreed. The post was then deleted.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 9:58 a.m.

Another slow news day so A2.Com breaks out the petty topics.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

The national media likes to stir the pot on major issues and, well.......


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

The chain was probably put on it just to help get it caught in the tree, kind of like when a pair of shoes are tied together and thrown over a power line or telephone line. I doubt there was a racial intention behind it, just a kid doing what kids do. We don't even know the race of the person or kid that did this, it is possible that it was not a white person that put the doll in the tree which would remove the racial implications where the writer stated it is blatantly racist. It would be blatantly racist if it had been hanging by a noose where the kids would see it. Lets get ALL the facts before we call this incident blatantly racist so we don't make a mountain out of a molehill.


Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

being sensitive to the way someone might feel requires compassion. I'm not reading a lot of compassion in these posts. But that figures, since I would imagine most of the post are written by people who are not of a racial minority. If you were, you would know that race is always a factor in our society. And before you go making assumptions about me, I am not an african american.

Ron Granger

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

It's a doll. Life is too short. Get over it. I once saw a doll handing from a tree on a beach. In hindsight, it was white! OMG!! Who cares.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 8:14 p.m.

I'm more concerned about the cougar roaming the woods of north ann arbor.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

If this had been a white doll would we still be having this discussion.............I doubt it. Why don't we let the kids play and stop making everything into a racist frenzy?

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

This guest columnist should have read the news reports and investigated more before writing this column with a factitious headline 'hanging incident'. All information has reported 'wrapped' in a chain and not in a 'hanging fashion'. I see kids at Community walking around wrapped with a chain(s), but certainly don't consider them 'hanged'. This author has made an attempt to 'outrage' a community, and I am deeply disturbed with these actions.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

Why give this finding power that it doesn't deserve? I can see why a news organization would want outrage over anything (just good business), but what happens if people get really upset over this? Guess what, someone thinks wow, this might be a way to get attention! Then whether or not they believe in what the news tells them this might stand for they act out in this way. Shame on you for the headline


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

"Two years ago, this community was filled with outrage and concern when white elementary-school-aged children were thought to be excluded from an achievement gap program." Well...they WERE excluded, so it wasn't just "thought". Common sense will triumph over misguided protests anytime, so save the protesting for real issues, instead of non-existent issues such as this one. Maybe you're still mad about the whole "basketball poster" non-issue...well, too bad


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

There is no outrage because some kid found a doll on the ground and threw it into a tree and it got stuck. It has happened a million times before, there is really nothing racist about it, except maybe the presumption that it is "blantantly racist". You really do not know that, you are presuming it simpy because it is a black doll. If the doll found on the ground had been a white doll, it would have become stuck too.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 4 p.m.

There is no outrage because: a) A2dotcom never verified the doll by posting a picture of it. b) either it's a random act of stupidity or a possible complete accident that does not need anymore publicity. c) The Burns Park principal over-reacted and most of the Ann Arbor community realizes this and thus everyone is willing to let sleeping dogs lie and let the principal save face.

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

Now, I can agree with your thoughts - but the Principal has a leadership position and that is to not 'over-react', but most certainly not 'under-react', albeit a fine line representation here.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

I'm selling torches & pitch forks at 1/2 price


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

I agree that sometimes things are overblown. However, unfortunately it is evident that there is still a racist undertone in Ann Arbor, MI. And, yes black people must continue to keep a thick skin, pretend that we don't see, feel, or are bothered by what some conclude as a "non-issue". I wonder what the dialogue would be if that were a white doll with a chain hanging around its neck and tossed in a tree? Until, we accept and denounce what happened to blacks in the past, these "non-issues" will probably continue.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

"I wonder what the dialogue would be if that were a white doll with a chain hanging around its neck and tossed in a tree? " That's an easy one. The dialogue would be non-existent, because the doll would have been left there, and none of us would know about it.

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

You're not serious....right ????


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Hear, hear!


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

"In their efforts to color this incident as a non-incident, they have granted the perpetrator(s) support, validation and a pardon while the victims are left with empty assurances and outrage." your choice of using the word color is interesting, to me (and others) you seem to be adding color to a non issue, other than the color of the doll which happens to be described as a black doll there seems to be no racial reasons for why the doll was put in the tree. Perhaps you should look more closely at yourself and ask why do you need to see this in a rasist light.

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.



Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

I am glad to read that the vast majority of the comments above me are negative to the guest columnist's reaction to this incident. There are a lot of good points made in those who commented above and I agree with many. If I were the Principal at the Burns Park school, I would have been only asking to questions to those who seen the doll and how they feel about it. That's where the buck stops. I feel sorry for all those students who knew nothing about this at that school and have since been the focus of this incident. The sad part is, many of us will be branded "insensitive". Peace-out.

Terry Star21

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

I can agree mostly. The Principal however has to react, and not 'over' or 'under' as there are many more people in our town that would be ready to crucify that Principal for 'hiding' a sensitive issues.

Hot Sam

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

"""the existence, even the possible existence, of racism in the Ann Arbor community.""" Now we're supposed to be outraged at "the possible" existence of something? Who perpetuates this type of thinking? When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail...


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

If the whole "outrage,disgust, and resentful," feelings were to be easily replaced with love, understanding, and forgiveness what a different society we could have.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Well said


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

My outrage is with those who attempt (without actual knowledge of what occurred) to interject and incite racial overtones into this event (if it is in fact one).


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

I understand your concern, but it seems to me that you may be making bold conclusions drawn from vague inferences. From what I've heard and read, there seemed to be no clear or blatant signs that this was an act signifying a hanging or even anything racist. If it was, then they certainly didn't make their intentions very clear. If someone wanted to make a racist statement, they would have tied a noose knot around a dolls neck and suspended if from a branch in a clearly visible way. By the descriptions however, this does not appear to have been the case here. Willingly or not, we all probably conjure up mental images of the incident when we read about it. Perhaps some may have pictured a black doll with a chain tied around its neck and hung in a mock hanging. When I read the description, it sounded to me more like a doll that had just been chucked up in a tree by some kids. When I was ten years old, if I found a doll laying on the playground and maybe rope or chain lying around nearby, do you think I would have tied the chain on it, spun it around like a sling and chucked it up in a tree? You bet I would have. I loved throwing stuff in trees, making messes, getting in trouble. I wouldn't have cared or even noticed if the doll happened to be a white GI Joe, a black Barbie doll, or stuffed Ewok. I probably would have chucked it up in a tree, then laughed and ran away when it got stuck. Point is, from the information publicly given here in the news, I see no way of determining if either of our mental images of the incident and its intentions are remotely correct. If it were indeed clearly a public symbolic hanging, then I'm sure there would be a great deal of public outrage. When a doll and chain (tied, tangled, wrapped, what kind of chain, we don't know) are found wedged up in between some high branches and described as not resembling a hanging, then I don't see much reason for alarm.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

I have to agree with the commenters here. There is not enough evidence that shows that this was a racially motivated incident at all. Especially since someone observed firsthand that the doll was "kicking" around the playground area before being found in the tree.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Tawana Brawley is *outraged*. *Outraged* I tell you.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

All we are getting is second- and third-hand descriptions by persons whose personal biases are obviously coloring their accounts of the incident. If this was as offensive as some are making it out to be, a photo should have been taken before the doll was removed from the tree so that we could form our own personal decisions based on physical evidence. I will not become outraged just because someone tells me I should be.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

Making something out of nothing, find something legit to complain about. ABO


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:11 p.m.

We already have enough fake outrage in this country. No need to contribute to that over this non-event.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : noon

If Al Sharpton hasn't shown up yet then I guess it is not worth an outrage?


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

*sigh* from the original report (my emphasis): "District Spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the doll was stuck in between two high limbs in a tree on the east side of the school's property. She said THE POSITION OF THE DOLL DID NOT RESEMBLE A HANGING." so the community outrage is where it's merited - non-existant


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

There is no outrage, because there is nothing to rage out about. This is a non incident, so the better question is, why are you trying to make it into one?


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

The incident as described in the press is ambiguous. The doll was reportedly seen in the park days before, probably lying near a play area. This means that the doll was not brought to the park as part of a deliberate exhibition. Then there's the oddly vague description of the chain. Was it a gold chain? Could it have been used as jewelry? Was it a very light gauge chain, or was it heavy like a shackle? Just putting the words, racist, black, and chain in a sentence conjures up images of black bondage and enslavement. While it should not be forgotten, I think some clarifications would help many of us to understand this incident.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Wow, does every stupid act really need outrage? Where's the outrage over Obama taking a million dollars from a sexist pig who called Ann Coulter a slut? Where's the outrage when the leader of the woman's rights league said it's okay for Obama to keep the money, because they want him to win (you can degrade a woman, as long as your man wins). Where's the outrage over the occupiers for robbing stores, defecating on the street and causing obstruction of justice? One stupid incident probably doesn't need outrage.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

Why do you bring up Obama?? He has nothing to do with this. Although I agree with you, that this incident most likely does not deserve outrage, I still wonder why do you bring up Obama??? You could have used any number of examples of misplaced outrage, instead you constantly bring up Obama. I wonder why.....