Why black people cheer louder at graduation ceremonies

OPINION - If you encounter a 'disruptive cheerer' who is making it hard for other people to hear, don’t call the cops -- just do what has been done for ages...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

When most of us go to a graduation, we pretty much expect to encounter at least one loud, obnoxious mom screaming, “That’s my baby!” “Gone ‘head [insert embarrassing family nickname]!” and the like through out much of the ceremony.  An interaction or two with security guards and maybe even a not-so-subtle exit might also happen, but we don’t expect an arrest.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened to one South Carolina mom this year when she was being “disruptive” at her daughter’s high school graduation.

Shannon Cooper was cheering on her daughter at the young lady’s high school graduation when she was escorted out of the facility by local police and arrested for disorderly conduct. Cooper spent several hours at the Florence County Detention Center until she  posted the $225 bond.

Must have been slow for South Carolina cops that day.  We’re hauling in loud moms at graduations these days? Granted, the school did send out letters to parents beforehand reminding them of the need to celebrate in a non-disruptive manner and let’s be real, it is very annoying when one parent is screaming so loudly that other families can’t hear their loved one’s names being read.  But unless this woman was throwing elbows at people near her, or shooting deadly blow darts at her daughter’s classmates, arrest was a level 10 response to a level 2 situation.

Some have said that law enforcement and school administrators need to just get used to over-zealous families because of the dismal high school graduation rates in the black community. According to Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, only 47 percent of black males graduated from high school in the 2007-2008 school year. The years since then haven’t been much better, with many of this country’s major cities hovering around the 50 percent mark for high school drop out rates and even dismally lower rates for black and Hispanic students.

I was born and raised in Detroit, a city that is not exactly known for a stellar public school system. The struggle is real, and I appreciate the accomplishments of these young men and women graduating from high school today, especially those coming from failing school districts where a lack of safety and resources make attendance that much more difficult.  Surely many of the stories behind those diplomas would make for engaging, heart-stopping documentaries.

However, even given all of that and understanding the rich and deep tradition of exuberant celebration in black culture, a graduation of a loved one is not a pass to act the fool. It costs nothing to be courteous and it stands to reason that one should be as respectful of other people’s graduates as one’s own.

Some of these school administrators have taken that too far, though.  Anthony Cornist of Cincinnati Ohio’s Mt. Healthy High School was ordered to perform 20 hours of community service before he could receive his diploma because the school said his family was guilty of “excessive cheering.” As with the Cooper case, parents were reminded beforehand to support in a respectful manner, but what a ridiculous passive-aggressive policy. They are literally punishing the child for the “sins” of the father (and mother and cousins and aunties).

Arrests and delayed diplomas are over-reactions to a common and not-that-big-of-a-deal issue called “That’s my baby and I’ll cheer as loud and long as I want to.”  It’s definitely an annoying practice when you are the “respectfully cheering” person, but it’s also not that deep. It’s a moment of celebration and even if somebody’s grandmother’s yelling drowns out the names of half the other graduates, everybody is still getting their diplomas (unless you’re the insane school that doesn’t give diplomas to graduating seniors for actions beyond their control) and that moment is just one of many to mark that accomplishment.

If you encounter a “disruptive cheerer” who is making it hard for other people to hear, don’t call the cops — just do what has been done for ages. Give a side-eye to the offender, mumble something sarcastic to your cousin and scream like you’re on a rollercoaster when your baby walks across the stage.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope