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Outstanding Exemplars; However, School District & Town of Pittsford are not Anomalies

Op-ed by Howard Eagle

Howard Eagle

So, the racist-filled town and school district of Pittsford, NY finally made it to the “anti-racist” big league (New York Times), see the link below.  It will be interesting (to say the very least) to see if this helps to fuel any practical, effective action, or just more ineffective, “anti-racist” talk, posturing, and gimmicks.

As noted by one parent who is quoted in the article, it could be that the bottom line is: “It’s something that’s ingrained. And it isn’t going away.” If this is in fact the case, then it would appear that Pittsford parents and families of color are faced with some very tough choices, which they will necessarily have to make, namely, remain and continue dealing with racism — while authorities continue giving lip service, and tinkering around the edges, or authorities might actually step up their efforts to make concrete, significant, measurable anti-racist changes and improvement, or of course, families can leave. 

I’m not a gambler, but if I was forced to make a bet, based on a very long, historical record and the current political atmosphere, I would probably place my money on the former, rather than the latter choice.  

Some statements cited in the article on the part of district officials seem to indicate the strong possibility of both a level of denial, as well as utilization of half-baked, gimmickry ideas and initiatives. For example, there is a growing body of research, which is clearly pointing to the strong possibility that implementation of so-called  “restorative practices,” (one of the district’s initiatives), is very limited, if not ineffective altogether, especially and particularly as it relates to anti-racism.

The ultimate time-biding gimmick and stalling tactic is the old, tired, worn-out act of so-called “curriculum evaluation.” I mean, how many times do curricula have to be “evaluated” before everyone in the business of education realizes and accepts that, with regard to some disciplines, it’s racist to the core (with of course Social Studies/History representing the most outstanding example)? Really, how many times are we going to go through that well-known exercise in futility? See additional information at the links below.  

Let’s hope that Pittsford’s new so-called “equity and diversity coordinator,” whom some are already predicting won’t be there very long, has the intestinal fortitude to make it clear that all Pittsford School District employees need to participate in authentic, no-holds-barred, anti-racist education (NOT so-called “diversity, equity, and inclusion training”), but instead — authentic, informed, no-holds-barred, anti-racist education. The main, fundamental issue, problem, and contradiction in the Pittsford School District, as well as all lily-white school districts within Monroe County and beyond (in fact, throughout this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state — in every direction — North, East, South, and West), is NOT so-called diversity, equity, and inclusion” — instead it’s individual, institutional, and structural racism — period.

Blatantly-generalized statements, such as, “it’s something we’re all working through,” which obviously is not true, are reflective of the lack of realistic, effective efforts and potential solutions. If all hands were on deck (so to speak), it’s very doubtful, probably even impossible that this would be continuing at the level that it is (for decades). Thus, for officials to spew super-hyper rhetoric at this particular point and time regarding so-called “helping communities heal” — when they haven’t even diagnosed, much less treated the illness — is, I imagine, probably insulting (to say the very least).

Lastly, one of the clearest statements regarding deep-seated, race-based cognitive dissonance and chronic denial was reportedly uttered by Pittsford’s Town Supervisor, who himself has clearly displayed (publicly), racist tendencies. He reportedly claimed that the recent racist incidents “are not at all representative of [their] town or its people.” WHAT?! Are the young people who are continuously committing these racist acts not part of the “town’s people?” How about the parents, guardians, families who are raising the young people — are they not residents of the town? You see, this represents one of the greatest obstacles relative to addressing the tripartite beast and illness, e.g., many do not want to put a face on racism. Instead, they want us to continue thinking of it as some sort of unidentifiable, mythical, abstraction. No sir Mr. Smith — we know what it is, and who it is.

~Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.

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