I appreciate the open discussion of the controversies swirling around the last days of this year’s Board of Education election, and particularly the contributions of Mr. Latz and Mr. Eastman.
I’d like to add two comments.
First, with regard to the troubling question asked at the Community Coalition on Race candidates forum, I want to take exception with the idea, in Mr. Latz’ words that “it was unfortunate that the question was asked” and Mr. Eastman’s complaint that it was tendentious.
Since I took an ill-timed bathroom break last Thursday when the offending question was asked, I didn’t really know exactly what had transpired until I viewed the video on Patch. When I did, I was frustrated at the whole upset.
If we want to get past “whispered tones” in talking about race, we need to learn to talk about hot button issues in public, and that’s one thing the CCR has long tried to do and encourage.
The discomfort of the moderator with the problematic question, and the immediate reaction in the room when it was finally asked, made it clear that the overwhelming consensus was that trying to link a candidate to someone else’s opinions was unfair. That speaks well of our community and our values.
What I wish is that we didn’t leap so fast from discomfort to indignation, leaving the hot button issue unaddressed. This happens all too often, in knee-jerk complaints about “the race card” or the inability to separate discussions of race from accusations of racism. It’s not easy to talk about, but we need to do it. Race is absolutely a sub-text in the leveling debates and we can’t talk about the racial achievement gap or racial inequity without talking about race, and attitudes and beliefs about it.
What I would have liked to have seen was any or all of the candidates, to cry foul on the question—no candidate is responsible for supporters’ views, or required to vet coffee hosts in the middle of an intense 6 week campaign—and to address the issue.
The question of the role of “culture” in the achievement gap is not a new one, and Mr. Reeves certainly didn’t invent it. It’s been part of research and debate on the achievement gap for decades. It’s been considered in numerous workshops, community forums and conversations sponsored by the CCR for at least the dozen years I have lived in Maplewood. They didn’t write the question, and they didn’t like it. Perhaps the moderator could have framed it differently, but they weren’t wrong to ask it, and ask potential Board of Education members to weigh in on it.
Secondly, while this is a small community and lines between public and private can easily be blurred, I am troubled that private e-mails would be publicly circulated and their authors castigated, at the same time that objections to public statements would be labeled slander and the speaker defended as a “private citizen.”
I have known Lisa Davis for a decade. Our children went to preschool together. We are not close, and our orbits have diverged since then, but we talk from time to time. We don’t agree on everything, and our “cultures” are different in many ways. But our educational backgrounds and values are broadly similar, as are our hopes and efforts for our children. And while virtually all parents have had problems along the way, or needed to advocate for their children in our schools, I know something of the profound and persistent racial issues Lisa has faced in this school district. Her experience matters, and she’s entitled to her opinions. She has nothing to apologize for.
The gap between her experience—and that of many others in these towns—and the stereotypes of black culture and achievement invoked by Mr. Reeves are perhaps the first “gap” we need to talk about as a community.