The Power of Privilege in Flower Mound, Texas

Congratulations, Flower Mound, Texas, you have become the caricature the nation imagines when they they think of backward southern towns where high schoolers hold up white power signs.

Flower Mound is also where I grew up. Technically, I grew up on the border of Flower Mound and the less affluent suburb it shares a school district with, Lewisville. I went to Lewisville High School, where most students come from lower socioeconomic situations than their peers in Flower Mound. Lewisville also has a much more racially diverse population than the two Flower Mound schools, and it seems to function with what I have always thought to be a surprising level of harmony.

Right now people across the country are reading about Flower Mound, TX through a lens with little context, but I have some. In 2007, my senior year at Lewisville High School, I attended a basketball game at the other high school in Flower Mound. We were the visiting team, and in the 4th quarter of the game a chant began from the home crowd referring to us as “welfare babies.” Note that the majority of LHS is not classified as economically disadvantaged, but what if they were? In that moment a value judgement was relayed, that having less money somehow makes people less worthy of respect, or less human. The chant went on long enough for everyone in the gym to understand what was happening, and for tension to build between the crowd. Adults were able to stop the chanting soon after, but from what I can remember no real consequences ever came of that, and I know that similar situations continue to happen at games between Lewisville and Flower Mound schools to this day. That is my context.

Within Lewisville Independent School District, and probably in many suburban communities in America, there is a problem with how students perceive themselves in terms of race and class. Parents in Flower Mound and surrounding similarly affluent communities openly discuss disdain for Lewisville High School and schools like it based primarily upon incorrect assumptions about the student body. The result of those openly classist and indirectly racist sentiments too often take the form of kids who believe that because their parents have money they somehow deserve to act in whatever manner they see fit.

I understand that what happened to the Plano East team’s bus remains unverified, but if FMHS students did indeed defecate on a bus, that behavior transcends the realm of acceptable teenage rebellion and enters the territory of behavior requiring immediate attention. That action specifically shows not only malice, but a deeper misunderstanding of humanity. Did the students consider the person who would have to clean up the human feces they left behind, or did that person not even cross their minds because they think a person responsible for cleaning a bus is only there to service them? It is not hard to crack a 16-year-old, so in my view LISD and FMHS need to get to the bottom of this immediately. If the bus incident was indeed perpetrated by FMHS students they should be responsible for cleaning buses for the rest of the year in addition to apologizing to the person or people who had to clean up their barbaric mess. There must be actionable consequences for situations like these or they will continue.

The reason history is a subject for human study is for the hope that humanity will not repeat its mistakes. I don’t think the kids from Flower Mound should be expelled, or otherwise shamed beyond cleaning buses and having to formally apologize. I do think this is a time to reflect on how we understand the historical context of the world we live in, and how that effects the youngest members of our society. I don’t blame the students for not understanding the gravity of a white power sign because it is likely they have only been exposed to a surface-level history of racism and the continued struggle for civil rights in America. It is that ignorance that turned this high school prank into something more sinister.

My fear is that people in the community will view this situation as a one-off that occurred in a vacuum. But contrary to Rush Limbaugh’s recent comment that racism under Jim Crow happened “a thousand years ago” (it was 50), racism in America is very much an open wound. For all those FMHS students may not know about what happened in this country just 50 years ago, someone’s family-member in the stands may very well remember when white supremacy justified the segregation that would have made a game between these two schools impossible.

I know that Flower Mound is not the caricature of itself the latest action by a few FMHS students suggests — Flower Mound High School alone is home to 31 of the school district’s 59 National Merit Finalists. I also know that there are people in that community — white, black, yellow, and brown — who support one another because I am a product of that. The problem is that although there is often acceptance there is not also a willingness to engage with certain uncomfortable truths, and unfortunately that means we are all trapped by the weight of our past, rather than the hope for a more unified future.

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17 thoughts on “The Power of Privilege in Flower Mound, Texas

  1. This wouldn’t have even been sent to the media if plano east actually won the game! It was taken WAY out of context! And yet they DON’T mention how students from plano east were SPITTING on OUR cheerleaders and yelling racial slurs to US! And they also don’t mention how thoes kids got KICKED OUT of the stadium! Plano east and Plano Isd needs to make an apology to fmhs and LISD! If my minor kid was in this pic I would SUE THE hell out Them!!! They also didn’t mention that the jags had their white uniforms on!!! Im sorry that happned to you during the game you went to but EVERY school has a few bad apples. But that doesnt dignify the school or the town!!! You cares what the majority of the race is!!! You are obviously stillensacure about that but what you wrote. Without hard facts! HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT OUR TOWN!!!! AND IF THE STUDENTS AT FMHS DIDNT KNOW ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED 50 YEARS AGO THEN THEY WOULDNT HAVE THE MOST MERRIT STUDENTS WOULD THEY?! OR BE ONE OF THE TOP SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTRY!!!!!! The media needs to get their fact straight before reporting this nonsense!! AND SO DO YOU!!! YOU WERE NOT AT THAT GAME. YOU don’t know these kids or what they are being taught, or what their REAL intentions were if any, how DARE YOU RELEASE THIS!!! SHAME ON YOU!!!!! YOU should have raised about with some class!!!!! #dontmesswithaformerjag

    1. LOL @ Tracey Archer. I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps your mature use of ALL CAPS TO MAKE SURE WE KNOW YOU’RE AMPED UP? Or maybe I should start with your excellent command of exclamation marks!!!!!! I’ll Settle On Your Awesome Understanding Of Captial Letters In The English Language. Clutch, though, on a salutation attacking the author’s “class.” It’s ironic in more ways than one. Great piece, Courtney.

    2. So that gives you little punks the right to make racial and classist remarks BACK??? What ever happened to be the better person and NOT STOOP TO THEIR LEVEL???? I am absolutely appalled and ASHAMED. And VERY glad that I’M A MAURADER ALUMNI! SHAME ON YOU FMHS!!!!

  2. Courtney.. do you think it possible that there is more to the picture than what you see? And, if what you see isn’t the truth are you willing to retract and apologize for the above?

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thank you for writing.
      Since writing this I’ve heard that there may be more to the story, as I suspected there was. There usually is. That isn’t really the point of my piece. The point is that this incident does not stand alone. It is a mindset I experienced personally, and I have family members and friends who continue to experience the tension I discuss in this piece. There is no legitimate reason for the students to have held up the sign the way they did (although I imagine they were signs that were meant to say “Blue and White” and “Jaguar Power”)… nevertheless the situation turned into a more unfortunate situation. But I don’t really focus so much on the actual incident in this piece as much as the greater atmosphere surrounding it, which again, I know for a fact exists. You may not agree, but I must use my voice to tell my truth. That is the purpose of sharing thought. I would not retract anything I said here because I think, even if Plano East was also culpable as the 1st commentor suggests, there is still a responsibility to address the behavior of FMHS students. Period. I would also hope Plano East will do the same, but I don’t have experience with that district, I have experience with this one. And unfortunately, in the context of mine and other’s experiences, this occurrence did not surprise me, and that is what compelled me to write this.

  3. β€œIf you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Abraham Lincoln . For those looking to support their position and who wish to fan the flames of hate and racism they will find what they are looking for every time. Painting an entire school or an entire community with a single brush stroke based on the actions of one or two students is just as ignorant as the actions being condemned.

  4. Courtney,

    Thank you so much for this very well written piece. As a 22 year long Flower Mound resident who was bused over to LHS (class of 96) because FMHS had not been built at that time, and as a parent of two young children in Flower Mound right now, I know that your experiences were real. A few unfortunately vocal adults and teens in this town have drawn a line on the map and created a West versus East mentality within Flower Mound itself and Lewisville is practically a third world country to them. I really do not believe that the majority of our residents feel this way, but this mentality is used as a way to smack talk rival schools. I have recently heard that the FMHS kids get teased for having rich parents. It’s all pretty ridiculous, but it happens.

    Many Flower Mound parents at the game have quietly admitted that the White and Power signs were held up intentionally for a brief time but they did not believe that it was preplanned. They feel that these kids are not racist, but that they did something very inappropriate and stupid in the heat of the moment when, as most people agree, the other school had students spitting on FMHS cheerleaders and were yelling inappropriate derogatory names at FMHS students. Tensions were also high in a game that went into 3 over times and resulted in a 4 way tie for first place with playoff games scheduled for later this week.

    I do think that the media presented an incredibly unbalanced, unfair and irresponsible news story, just to get ratings. A few students from both schools behaved inappropriately that night and the media has chosen to destroy one town over it. Those individuals and news sources who have tweeted or reported that FMHS students showed up to the game in “black face” disgust me the most. FMHS had black students in attendance at the game as well as students with their faces painted blue for team spirit. To even hint to anything other than that is scandalmongering, sensationalistic and malicious. I know waiting around for an investigation and for the facts to come out is difficult these days, but making up and creating “facts” as well as only telling half of a story is destroying people’s lives.

    I do not think these students should be expelled either. I’m not sure what punishment would be appropriate, but that doesn’t seem to fit the crime in this case. I can understand why some of our Townspeople are so very protective and defensive of our children and that they really want this to all be a horrible mistake. Unfortunately, I don’t think that was the case, but I am still waiting for the official statement from the investigation being done by the school. I do know that Flower Mound is not the caricature of the backward southern town that the world might now see it as right now. Everyone has to deal with some uncomfortable situation every once in awhile. Unfortunately, this is our time.

      1. ^Both of yall are former Farmerettes. Drill Team Girls FTW. πŸ™‚
        PS, Court, I obviously loved this piece and shared it because I think your voice is eloquent, and articulate. I also think you have a perspective that I don’t, and I was proud to post it on Facebook. I see now that my posting of it got shared to a “Flower Mound Cares” group (which is more like Flower Mound Cares About a Super Republican and Close Minded Agenda group), and that’s where the ALL CAPS LADY CAME FROM. Sorry about that.

      2. Linds! Thank you for sharing! No matter where it goes, that is the point of the conversation… even when I get messages back in all caps. πŸ˜‰
        I actually like hearing all the perspectives because it helps me understand my own point more, and maybe change it a little. Dialogue is important, so I’m glad it was shared to that group. Even if it makes one person think about things differently — or makes me think about things differently, I’ve accomplished the goal of thought sharing. πŸ™‚

  5. Courtney you are entitled to write about your personal story-and you wrote a very eloquent story, don’t you think that you should have looked into both sides of the story before you wrote it? Don’t the students of FMHS deserve to have their side told? I wasn’t at the game so I can’t comment on whether they held the signs up on purpose or not. Also, it is my understanding that it was not a current student involved in the bus incident. This game wen into triple overtime and things got very heated between the students on both sides. And both sides acted inappropriately. I’m just curious as to why before you sat down to write this story you didn’t get both sides. While you might have intended the story to be your personal experience-that is not what came out. What came out is you condemning FMHS as a whole. I have a student at FMHS and she has a diverse group of friends and she certainly is not racist and neither are the majority of the people she goes to school with. You are characterizing an entire town that you no longer live in based on the possible actions of a few.

    1. Hello,

      I understand your frustration, and I understand that there are two sides, but I am commenting on what I know about this situation in relation to my own experiences and those of my family and friends. This piece is about context, and asking people to think about how language and attitudes might be reflected in student behavior. This is not an isolated incident of acting out, which is my point. There is also no excuse for a white power sign, just as there is no excuse for spitting in anyone’s hair… I would expect students on both sides to be punished. That said, spitting in hair and taunting do not have the same fraught history or loaded meaning as the white power slogan (especially in the context of the current tension in the country), and that is the difference. There are plenty of good people in FMHS and Flower Mound, which is obvious, and why I pointed that out in this piece. I also did not call anyone in the situation or in Flower Mound racist (I specifically point out that I don’t think these students even understand the gravity of what they were doing). Please go back and reread.

  6. Courtney, I enjoyed your thought provoking piece. As a resident of FM, I am all too aware of what seems to be a prevailing viewpoint of “not me or my child, must be someone else’s fault”. It’s the persecution complex that parents have developed while living in such a privileged, affluent area. I live in this area and know firsthand how parents claws come out if you even suggest their precious children might have done something wrong (and I have children of my own and very aware of their faults). I don’t think this would have gotten so much press if parents had just accepted that yes, some of the kids did some crummy stuff (as teens do sometimes) and let the school officials should handle it. Own up to it and move forward, don’t push the blame off on others for being offended by racial slurs, people.

  7. Courtney,
    I hope you don’t mind I share this YouTube link of the opening to the re-match of that basketball game which took place just days ago.

    It would be great to see you write up a piece on this.

    – Dan — culturally diverse Flower Mound parent trying to raise kind, caring, hard working, culturally accepting, and giving children, in a town that encourages and fosters that type thinking.

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