October 15, 2012

Sandra Chapman: Q&A with John Stanfield

Sandra Chapman, author of The Girl in the Yellow Scarf, will be speaking on October 17 at 6 p.m. about her book. Here, Professor John H. Stanfield II, who helped organize the discussion, talks about her upcoming visit.

1. What inspired you to bring Sandra Chapman to campus?

My arrival in Indiana [in 2002] coincided with the case and the hyper high-profile attention being paid to Martinsville in the media. I remember being struck by media reports that the Martinsville civic leadership was relieved that the alleged killer, turned in by his daughter, was not a local resident. Given my interest in restorative justice as healing methods in racially troubled communities, the case was somewhere in my mind when a local radio personality in Bloomington asked to interview me about race relations soon after the 2002 fall term began. While we were waiting for the show to begin, I asked the radio guy where he was from, and he said Martinsville and then as he turned red as a beet said "things are changing there, I can get you in touch with some of the community's civil rights leaders." He did just that, and I spent a year conducting behind-the-scenes focus group meetings with key Martinsville civic leaders about the history of their community and what could be done to develop a much more open community culture. I published one article on these group conversations.

2. What are some of the major moral issues that are raised by Chapman’s book?

How "bad things" parents do to their young children who they assume are not looking, hearing, or seeing can have a negative bearing on their lives as they grow up; the horrible struggle it often is to do the right thing, especially when it comes to the harmful behaviors of parents and other immediate family members; the moral responsibilities and dilemmas of therapists, investigation journalists, and law enforcement officials and systems, especially when it comes to a cold murder case involving a representative of a population usually ignored, marginalized, and even dehumanized; how solving this cold murder case provided space for Martinsville civic leadership reflection on what kind of community they wanted to be.

3. What was the impact of Shirley McQueen’s decision to bring her father to justice?

This is an interesting question since it depends on who you are referring to: impact on Shirley McQueen, impact on her father, impact on her family, impact on Martinsville, impact on media and law enforcement systems, impact on the journalist and on the law enforcement officials, the court judges, and the general public. Even though all of these different impacts are important to consider and to embrace, I think the major one of concern for this presentation is the impact on the public with the question of how can we create and sustain public times and spaces so we can in Indiana begin to have "conversations to do something about this" regarding this and other cold cases involving issues such as unresolved homicide and lynching cases, and sundown towns involving non-whites and other dehumanized populations (there is a long unresolved Indiana eugenetic history of at least one exterminated population in the late 19th century and early 20th century).

4. Why do you think the Carol Jenkins case came to national attention when McQueen came forward?

This case broke during a very interesting and critically important media trend in the United States in bringing attention to untold community and individual horrors African Americans have experienced not only during the 400 years era of slavery but during the post-Civil War Jim Crow years (1890s-1960s) which involved lynchings, pograms ( the burning out of African American neighborhoods such as Tulsa and Rosewood), race riots ( e.g. East St. Louis, Elaine, Watts), church bombings ( Birmingham), civil rights leader killings ( e.g. Medgar Evers), and attempts to bring closure in public realms to such tragic incidents through bringing victimizers to justice as we move from a Cold War to a Post-Cold War society and world--the former tolerating if not suppporting racial dehumanization as a matter of course and tradition where diversity and inclusion are at best viewed as forbidden acts and the latter becoming a time period in which diversity and inclusion are imperatives for being effective and successful upwardly mobile 21st century citizens in our globalized American society and world.

5. What do you hope for audience members to get from the discussion with the author?

Since the audience are mostly students, I would hope that they will come to realize that this is not an isolated case in the past which can now be tucked away and move on as if we do not have a moral responsibility as citizens to make sure that be it on campus, in our off campus communities, and in our future workplaces and families we need to stand up and be counted on the right side rather than to be indifferent or scared of the wrong side. It is a matter of learning how to live justice-oriented lives, since it is the only way where ever we lay our hat or live our lives, we have a moral obligation to others as well as to our own mental, physical, and spiritual well being to make sure everyone is treated right as a human being and when they are not, there is no money, job, or any thing else great enough to lead us to be silent while others suffer or have suffered.

For more information on this event, visit http://themester.indiana.edu/events/chapman.shtml.

Rebecca Kimberly
Themester 2012 Intern

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