Monday, August 29, 2016

Racism In Bridgeport - Yes, No?

This is a follow up to something that was brought up at the Monday August 22nd school board meeting.  I saw a discussion online over the weekend that made me think more about the subject of racism and specifically pertaining to it here in Bridgeport and from our school board.  I could list the official definition of racism or all the incidents of it throughout history in our world, but instead I will share my view of it.  I believe it is born of ignorance and empty hearts by people that are not "color blind" but instead are "blinded by color".  It is real and has been in existence in our world throughout our long history and used against many ethnic groups, not just one group.

This weekend I saw a discussion on the Facebook page for the Bridgeport Alumni.  The football coach had shared a photo to promote the calendar used for fundraising for the football team.  In the photo you can see that all the players are black.  Let me also add that I don't like the term black or African American or colored -- They are labels, and I don't feel that any person should be identified by a label.  Labels I feel minimize the uniqueness and humanity of an individual.  The only label I do like is "my fellow man".
A Bridgeport alumni made a remark on that photo/post that I think most people would automatically perceive as a racist remark.  I perceived it as a racist remark which is why I took several screenshots of the conversation.  I do not know this person that made the original remark so I do not know what is truly in his heart. Maybe he did not mean it in a racist way or did not believe it was racist.  I heard there was more conversation on this post after I took these screenshots but it was deleted before I saw it all.  I will share here what I did see.  I will say that this is not the first time I have seen a comment on the alumni page that I perceived as racist.  There have been a couple remarks in the past but I will add that it was only a couple.  But to see them, and see them used against children, is heartbreaking.  To see those remarks made by Bridgeport Alumni or parents makes me sad.  Here are the two screenshots that I took of the conversation: click on the photos to see the conversation

I have always viewed Bridgeport as a open and welcoming community.  I suspect that racism does exist here more than I would like to believe.  I don't personally see it because I don't associate with people that are racist.  This year I have not been able to attend a single community event, have not been out and about speaking with people in this community.  Just because I or other people don't see it doesn't mean racism does not exist.  I am sorry for anyone in our community that has had to suffer because of the ignorance of small minds and hearts.

So yes racism is real and no acts of racism should ever be allowed to stand unchallenged.  Racism should never be minimized either.  The word racist is a very very powerful word and it also should never be used lightly. That word has the power to permanently tarnish or destroy a person. To call a person or an act racist when it may not be the true case, I feel just succeeds in marginalizing the true and serious acts of racism.

Now back to racism and our school board.  There were several meetings that I was not able to attend and the terms "race based"and "racism" where used there. One of the meetings I heard even had the term "racist" used towards other board members.  I have had to ask around about these incidents and so the information I am sharing here is second hand.

First there was a regular school board meeting that I was not able to attend.  I don't know for sure what date this meeting was held because I have missed several.  I believe it involved the hiring of the new assistant principal for the high school.  My understanding is that this woman is black.  I don't know the whole backstory to who all may have applied, what their qualifications were, why this woman was chosen.  What I have heard is that she was hired by a vote of 4 to 3.  One or more of the  3 members that voted no were then accused of being racist by another of the school board members.  This was done publicly during this meeting.  I feel that it was a highly inappropriate and irresponsible thing to do!!  I suspect the lack of communication and the division that I see as a real problem with this board plays a part in all of this.  If one or more of our school board members request more information, wants to know what an applicants qualifications are, and those board members just happen to be white -- That does not make their request or decision to vote no a racist act!!  That is ignorance to assume it is automatically racist because those board members were white!!   I would expect all of our board members to make sure that they are well informed and are making the best decision possible for the future of our school district.  If they are going to be accused of being racist every time they do something that another board member does not agree with, that will make this board nonfunctional.  One or more of these board members may have felt that way personally but it never should have been said publicly during that meeting.  I would ask that board member to truly check their heart and think long and hard before they ever make that kind of accusation again.
I have also heard that a board member said something along the line of "we should be hiring more blacks" or "we should be hiring only blacks".  I don't know the exact words spoken or the context of the statement.  I agree that diversity is a good thing.  But what if the minority person being hired is not the best person for the job?  What good is achieved in the long run then?  Bridgeport schools are at a critical point in their future and they need the most qualified people that will have the most positive impact.  Every applicant should be hired based on their qualifications only, not the color of their skin. We are right back to being blinded by color.  I believe that we are all human, brothers and sisters, all God's children.  I judge people by their heart and soul, not the color of their skin.  Until all of mankind can view their fellow man color blind, we will not make any progress.

There was also the workshop/retreat that the school board members participated in back in July of this year.  Four of the board members were able to attend, Pat Nelson, Robert Lange, Dempsey Allen, Tedi Morris.  Three members were unable to attend, Marti Sagemanm Larry Long, Jay Bruns.  Some of the things discussed at this retreat were their concerns about and plans for the future of  the school board.  At the August 22nd school board meeting Deb Macon from the MASB gave a presentation and shared many excellent things and also the "concerns" expressed by those board members in attendance at the retreat.  The concerns expressed by some of the attending board members were their own opinions and perceptions.  Once they share those thoughts publicly and especially once those thoughts were shared by the MASB member during the meeting on the 22nd, they are then being perceived as accusations.  When it is shared and becomes an accusation, and being made by someone that is a person of authority, or someone held in esteem, like our school board members, then that accusation will more likely be assumed to be true by the public.  I don't feel that those thoughts about "race based" or "racism" should have been shared publicly during that meeting on the 22nd.  That was perceived by me and others in this community as accusations being made against some of our board members and whoever those comments may have been directed towards were unable to defend themselves against it during that board meeting.
JUST BECAUSE AN ACCUSATION IS MADE DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY MAKE THAT ACCUSATION TRUE!!  All you have to do is look at recent events over the last year involving our school board and even in our sad national politics to understand that an accusation is not the same as the truth!!

I would like to remind every one of our school board members that your words and acts are setting an example for our children here, so choose your words wisely and set an example that will be good for them to follow.

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