James Willie Jones with His Daughter Chatari: How Much and How Long Must He Apologize?

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I was writing this commentary in late September, until the Bishop Long-“Spiritual Sons” controversy broke out. Lately, however, James Jones had been milking his fifteen minutes for all it was worth in apologies, so consider this a kind of update on the original post below. I think that that the real reason is not any civil lawsuits that he would face, but that the Jones family are on a fixed, tight income like many in this Great Recession, and any jail time meted out because of Jones’ tirade would be financially catastrophic to them. A few days ago, his twelve-year-old daughter, Chatari, the recipient of the bullying, stepped forward to tell her story.

Chatari Jones, 12, fought back tears as she talked to Matt Lauer on the “Today” show about being bullied on her school bus.

Monday’s interview was the first time Chatari, who has cerebral palsy, has spoken publicly after her father stormed a Seminole County school bus to confront the bullies.

Lauer asked Chatari why she waited about a week to tell her parents about the bullying.

“If I don’t do it know, what will happen?” Chatari said. “They would poke me with pencils, call me names and condoms were getting thrown on the bus.”

Chatari told Lauer that she feared the bullying would get worse.

I was disgusted at Matt Lauer for suggesting that perhaps Jones was too rash, over-compensating in trying to protect his daughter. Right. That idiot has never been in that kind of position. Lauer, no doubt, sends his kids to cosseting, privileged private schools where none of this stuff ever occurs. And if it does, the teasing and bullying may come out in other more “acceptable” ways that the teachers and parents let slide. Or these kids of celebrities would simply matriculate at another school if the bullying would not end. And the school would get a rep. After all, these are upper class white kids, while the children Chatari was facing were of her own class: lower class white, brown and black kids. The parents of these children may not have the easy option of sending their kids to parochial or other private schools.

It’s important to note that since the deaths of Tyler Clementi and other gay or perceived gay children through suicide, that Jones seems to have taken a more defensive stance. The unspoken view: that Jones wouldn’t want his daughter, who recently spent time in the hospital under a suicide watch, to lose all hope and kill herself. Before, however, it became a bit embarrassing to watch Jones apologize so profusely. I agreed with Leftwingeddove at Opposing Views who had this to say:

Now we’re confronted with five young men, despondent victims of bullies, who have committed suicide in rapid succession. They were bullied to death. And yet James Jones felt the need to apologize. Can anyone else see the irony? It’s not just ironic. It’s complete and utter idiocy that a parent was arrested for doing what needed to be done to protect their child from what could easily have become suicidal depression. Bullies aren’t just annoying now. They are lethal weapons, essentially free to destroy all the lives they wish to without any repercussion.

I don’t care if kids are bullied because they are gay or disabled or black or fat or poor or merely different. If bullies are allowed to continue unchecked, the parent of the victim should have the right to curse them out.

Forty years ago, James Jones would have been able to bawl out the demons on the bus, go home, have a cup of coffee and go on with his day in peace. Misbehaving kids were often chastised by the nearest adult, generally a neighbor, and all was well. Now we’ve become politically correct to the point that we’re supposed to allow hate-filled, heartless brats to push our children to the brink of suicide because to do otherwise is.. what? Rude? Going too far? Crossing some line?

If parents can’t defend their children and teachers or principals or school bus drivers can’t or won’t stop the bullies, who will? If rotten parents are free to raise cruel brats without repercussion, when will the suicides end? If the people raising these bullies don’t care enough about the victims to reign in their monsters, there needs to be some legal consequence to motivate them into humanity and decency.

Chatari Jones seems to me a very tender, sensitive child. No, she doesn’t deserve to be among these kids, but perhaps children who also have cerebral palsy or abled children who are more accepting of her.

I still don’t think that this cancels out completely the big, scary black man myth, but it certainly gives a reason why black men like Jones would go off. And it gives America a look at a black, working class father, a former Army private, who is concerned about keeping his family whole and happy. I will say, this is rather refreshing from the run-of-the-mill, single parent meme.

Later, at a October 5 gathering at Spirit of Truth Ministries in Lake Mary, Chatari actually thanked the children who bullied her.

“Thank you so much for bullying me because it taught me a lesson about disabled kids,” Chatari Jones said. The 12-year-old suffers from cerebral palsy.


“We are trying to turn around what happened on that bus,” her father said. “My daughter can now stand up for others.”

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects communication, posture and other motor skills. Although her parents said she does not show many outward signs of the disorder, it has affected her speech and walk.

James Willie Jones and Deborah McFadden-Jones joined their daughter and attorney Natalie Jackson as they addressed the media Tuesday at their church, Spirit of Truth Ministries in Lake Mary.

Jackson also had a message for the bullies accused of tormenting Chatari: “Hopefully, the bullies can learn something from this and come forward.”

Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention in Minnesota, also was on hand to express her gratitude to Chatari.

“We have a number of kids with disabilities who are being bullied,” Hertzog said. “Hopefully, [Chatari’s] courage and bravery will spare others.”

Chatari smiled at reporters as she answered questions Tuesday and then gave Jackson a high five before leaving the church.

Her demeanor was in sharp contrast to Monday’s nationally televised interview on NBC’s Today Show where she cried as she recalled the school-bus incident.

The family has been holding new conferences in hopes of drawing attention to the problems of bullying. October is National Bullying Prevention Month.

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So why do I ask the question in the headline above?

I ask it because of two things. One is the video of the Joneses’ press conference in late September and two is the video below that contains one of the youths who had bullied James Jones’ disabled daughter and another child. The boy, thirteen-year-old Alonzo Brundidge, smiles too much and his mother scowls too much. I’m sure the mom wants to kill James Jones, but frankly, sista, you ain’t doing your effing job, and he’s showed you where and with whom.

Brundidge was scared, huh? Picking on a child who can’t defend herself and is disabled? Inside every bully lurks a coward. He’s smiling now, because of all this attention, but wait, just wait a few more years. He’ll be smiling through a thick window.

When I was a little girl, I went to a pre-school run by a church where there was a blind child. Because this was the Fifties, and desegregation had not yet reached all schools and institutions in the South, black children were sent where they could be accepted. I think at one point that there was a child who had been stricken with polio as well with us. I remember the heavy metal and leather straps on the child’s leg, and how she walked haltingly. Whenever she fell, she got up by herself if there was no one there, and kept going.

But we all played with the blind girl, rough or gentle, tumbling and climbing; we knew that she could not see us, but she knew our names and our voices, and probably our smells. She ran with us, screamed with us, sometimes bumped into us. It was no big deal that someone had to help her cut vegetables with us to make soup that time in the pre-school kitchen. There was no right way to cut vegetables with dulled knives that wouldn’t hurt us. Just carefully. Nobody bullied this girl or made fun of her. Not that I remember. Because she was with us, that taught us that although she was different from us, she was just like us.

I recall her sightless eyes that moved interestingly of their own accord, as brown as Coca Cola; and her kooky, sweet toothy, four-year-old smiles, and I don’t get it. I don’t get these strange days where respect is more about ego and swagger than it is about feeling for others who are different than us.

Getting back to my original question. Every time I see the brother, James Jones is apologizing for his actions that day that made him in/famous, depending on how you look at it. That’s why I wasn’t so quick to call him a hero, because it seemed to me that in boarding that bus to confront his daughter’s tormentors, he became the biggest bully, even threatening the school bus driver.

However, I don’t blame him for getting upset and wanting to whack their asses. That’s the immediate gut response, and I could definitely see where he was coming from.

But I am getting tired of hearing his apologies again and again. Live and recorded. Once is enough, but they’ve been broadcast all over repeatedly. I don’t think that he fears a lawsuit from the Brundidges. I double-dog dare them to try that one, and I have no doubt that it would bring in everything Alonzo’s been up to from third grade up to now and probably land him in reform school. Nor do I think that the school district will pursue a lawsuit either, which would lay them open to negligence as well.

I think it has something to do with the big, scary black man myth, really. That this unhappy father jumped onto a school bus and “terrorized” some students who were messing with his child? I think some people see the possibility of that happening elsewhere with other fathers and fathers of color. I think his apologies serve as a deterrent strategy as well. This can’t happen again, however, what are the schools going to do to prevent angry, responsible parents like Jones from taking the matters into their own hands?

The Joneses will not be returning their daughter back to the school that Brundidge attends. The child is still in the hospital on suicide watch, and she has yet to be released. It was such an experience for this fragile soul that she may never forget it. I am sure that Brundidge and the other little pukes responsible for this state of affairs will be congratulating each other, and thinking of themselves as strong and hard and gangsta, and close to real men for supposedly standing up to a grown man, and wondering what the hell Jones was doing getting in the way of their fun. They weren’t doing anything. Wrong.

~ by blksista on October 7, 2010.

One Response to “James Willie Jones with His Daughter Chatari: How Much and How Long Must He Apologize?”

  1. I adore this man. Every child in the world deserves a father like him. There was NO REASON for him to apologize, he did what every father should do. He should have never been arrested, he should have been applauded!


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