August 1, 2022
Karen Allen <email@example.com>
Nita Collier <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Damon Myers <email@example.com>
Charlie Sheads <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Chris Wingate <email@example.com>
Anna Graham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cathy Jones <email@example.com>
Dear Members of the Madison County School Board:
First, I believe it is important to state that the NAACP is neither conservative nor liberal, but welcomes all who advocate for social, economic, political, and educational justice.
We often hear about the need to be “colorblind.” This concept sounds promising on the surface; however, in too many instances colorblind means oblivious to the needs and concerns of people of color. Contemporary research in education suggests that the profession has long been geared toward what is termed as the mainstream and has not included much-needed diverse perspectives. We do not wish for a colorblind society but one that sees color and all other manners of diversity—appreciating all with equal concern.
Affirmative action was codified in recognition that despite what America aspired to be, additional measures were needed in order to live out our creed of equality. According to Fortune magazine, fewer than 1% of all Fortune 500 companies have a Black CEO. According to the US Census, Black unemployment is among the highest in the country. On-time graduation rates for Black students are also among the lowest in the country. Median income for Black households is lower than other subgroups while they account for a disproportionately high percentage of the prison population. We can chalk these numbers up to coincidence or even push the blame on others to avoid taking a hard look at the systemic realities that still exist in our country. Ignorance however, won’t make inequities any less true. Persons who believe that our country is now free of racist policies are indeed colorblind in the worst sense of the term.
Mr. Wingate is confident that school leadership will rightly fire any school employee practicing discrimination but what about board members who so flippantly practice discrimination, whether removing the perspective of people of color from textbooks or refusing to acknowledge the rights of children regarding sexual orientation and identity? How do we appropriately respond when incidents of racism show up on buses and in classrooms? This is precisely why equity education and true diversity are needed.
“Students are best educated one individual at a time; we should ensure a holistic aggressive and effective fight against all bullying and encourage good citizenship…” Penned by Mr. Wingate, these are the tenets of social and emotional learning; instruction that has been proven to increase both the self-efficacy and academic achievement of students. Core to SEL is the premise that we must understand our differences and respect others’ differences in order to learn to coexist in a healthy manner with our differences.
Because of the misinformation surrounding this topic, the Culpeper NAACP is planning an open forum on education to be held in the next several weeks. We will offer a panel of noted educators to answer questions relating to diversity and equity in education. Please plan to attend this forum and ask all of your hard questions. We all care about our schools; let’s work together.
Dr. Uzziah Harris
President, NAACP Culpeper