Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Love and Consequences, and the consequence of lying

In an earlier post, that you may have read, and which I have recently taken down, I wrote about Margaret B. Jones, a supposed former gang member who wrote a memoir, profiled in the New York Times about growing half-white/half-Native American in an African American foster family in South-Central Los Angeles. I wrote about what an inspiration Ms. Jones was, getting out of the inner city and graduating from the University of Oregon, but still staying true to her roots by writing her memoir. I wrote about how Ms. Jones is an inspiration to my students, who have to face a similar choice of going to college and leaving their neighborhood.

Sadly, this story is not true. Margaret B. Jones is actually Margaret Seltzer, who is all-white, who grew up in a middle class home in Sherman Oaks, CA and who never graduated from the University of Oregon. Ms. Seltzer has supposedly worked in gang reconciliation, but she never grew up in an African-American foster family in South-Central LA, never was a member of the Bloods and is not part Native-American. In an article published last evening in the New York Times, Ms. Seltzer asserts that she based her supposed memoir on stories of "friends," but felt their stories couldn't be published any other way.

Ms. Seltzer is correct in asserting that a lot of the stories that you would've found in Love and Consequences aren't told and need to be brought forth to the public. Unfortunately, the fact that she fabricated the fact that the story is hers (she could've very well written Love and Consequences as fiction, "inspired by true stories"), makes the reality of inner city America less true. Facts, such as 1 out of 9 African-American men are incarcerated (and 1 out of every 100 Americans) or that just this past weekend 3 Chicago Public School students were shot and killed and 5 were wounded are horribly true, just like much of what Ms. Jones wrote about in her supposed memoir is true, it just didn't happen to her.

If there are any lessons to be learned by my students about Ms. Seltzer's story, it is that it does not pay to lie and in the end, you will be caught. An interesting read are the comments to the article about Ms. Seltzer's fabricated story.

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