Presentation to the Center for Civic Literacy

By Sheila Kennedy

[Originally published at on August 26, 2014]

The 2nd annual conference of the Center for Civic Literacy was held this last weekend, and this is an abbreviated version of my introductory presentation. The sessions were videotaped, and will be posted to the Center’s website….I hope at least some of the readers of this blog will view some or all of them when they become available, because several were very thought-provoking. 

This blog will return to its regular curmudgeonly ways tomorrow… 


One year ago, we convened the first of what I hope will be many annual meetings of the National Advisory Committee of the Center for Civic Literacy. Those of us who had embarked on this venture were still very wet behind the academic ears, and the advice so generously shared by many of you proved invaluable as we considered the direction of Center research. 

Because last year’s conference was the first, attendance was limited to presenters and members of the National Advisory Committee; this year, we have opened attendance to other interested parties—so we are joined for some or all of the sessions by teachers, political figures and others who are concerned with the causes and consequences of what we at CCL have come to call our “civic deficit.” We welcome you all and we want to hear your perspectives. 

Fox Thinks Referring To Michael Brown As "Unarmed Teenager" Is Misleading

Fox Thinks Referring To Michael Brown As "Unarmed Teenager" Is Misleading
On the August 25th episode of  Fox & Friends, the show's regular hosts discussed Michael Brown's killing with guest and Fox contributor Linda Chavez. During the discussion the group argued that labeling Michael Brown as an "unarmed teenager" could be misleading due to his size - which, apparently, qualifies him neither as a teenager nor unarmed.

Contending that the phrase "unarmed teenager" attempts to inject race into the discussion, Chavez argued:
"I think that what is happening is really not calming racial fears but is actually enhancing them by acting as if, you know, this mantra of the unarmed black teenager shot by a white cop. You know, that description in and of itself actually colors the way in which we look at this story. We're talking about an 18-year-old man who is six foot four and weighs almost three hundred pounds, who is videotaped just moments before the confrontation with a police officer strong arming an employee and robbing a convenience store."
Aside from the fact that an 18-year-old is still factually a teenager, Chavez's statement contains other glaring omissions and errors. The fact that he died at the hands of law enforcement without a weapon - also known as unarmed - also seems to escape her acute attention. But those aren't the most egregious errors.

Chavez continues the debunked conservative reporting meme arguing that the convenience store confrontation - one that the store's owner didn't consider serious enough to call the police (it was a store patron that called) - had anything to do with police stopping Brown and/or eventually shooting him following jaywalking and street obstruction violations.

Perhaps Chavez and the Fox and Friends crew subscribe to the George Zimmerman theory of weapons and believe Michael Brown could've used the pavement below him as a weapon at any moment if Darren Wilson didn't shoot him several times.