Remember this story about the African American kids who had their membership to a swim club cancelled because it would “change the complexion” of the club? No real surprise, a state panel found probable cause of discrimination. The club plans to appeal.
The part the AP story didn’t reveal, however, is that some of the negative comments came from teachers of some of the campers. Columnist Annette John-Hall notes that many of the club members who complained were careful to include denials that race had anything to do with their objections: “This has nothing to do with the children being African American,” read one e-mail. Yet club board member George Whitehill noted “Race is an issue since every email of complaint mentioned race.”
Here’s the school district’s response:
“We certainly don’t try to restrict the free speech of our teachers, or their actions,” said Evelyn Sample-Oates, a district spokeswoman. “Of course, we hope they would not do anything harmful or racially offensive to our children. We are a diverse district.”
Ah, of course we can not restrict free speech!
You notice also that the spokesperson says that they “hope” the teachers would not do anything harmful or racially offensive to the children. This despite the fact that the HRC investigation already found that the swim club had discriminated against the children.
“Hope” also implies that the school district won’t actually do anything. They’ll just “hope” their teachers aren’t racist.
The reality is that the teachers probably will suffer no ill effects from their actions. And like with racist firefighters and police officers and college professors and other people who serve the public trust, it raises the question of how private actions should be taken into account with professionals. (N.B. I did not say “whether” private actions should be taken into account.)
The reality is that if we were a system in which the majority held anti-racist beliefs, these teachers never would have been teaching.
And maybe that’s the reality we need to be reaching for.
Edited to add: You can read the findings here (pdf file).