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Opportunity to close wounds of discrimination
I feel compelled to revisit a topic raised during my first meeting as a board member on June 24. The video is on the Federal Way Public Schools board webpage.
The speaker, Mr. Alton McDonald of the New Century Justice Network, begins his public comment at about the 38-minute mark. It is a very heartfelt plea to the board for action on a perceived view of racism and allegations of pervasive discrimination within our school district. When I read the July 3 article by Mirror journalist Ms. Raechel Dawson I came to appreciate the added public context and how the community might further empathize with those involved.
It may not be well understood that personnel issues cannot be discussed in public forums and the time afforded to speakers at board meetings is not intended for open debate with board members; however, in retrospect it would have been nice to be able to make this clear so that members of the community did not go away believing we were in any way unsympathetic to the speaker or the topic of racism and discrimination.
I think it is very difficult to imagine how the added burden of wondering whether an objectionable act was due to a bad day, rudeness, lack of sympathy, nothing at all or an act of racism or discrimination unless it has been a part of your day-to-day thinking process as a person of color or sector of society that feels discrimination.
Many are better than me at keeping the race-colored glasses from skewing their world view, but it can be very hard to do because it can be a pervasive thought that lingers in the back of the mind, ready to be called forward by a sense of injustice. Was the auto mechanic unethical in what they charged? Did I not understand the cost of repair? The person of color has one additional place to go, was I over-charged by a racist?
As much as it can be a burden for people to be sensitive and try to avoid creating even the perception of discrimination, it is also an incredible burden for people who live daily within one or more categories facing discriminatory acts and having to wonder about who might be treating them differently out of hatred. When that mind game becomes overwhelming, there is nothing more incredibly sad than finding someone you know has committed suicide for feeling hated about being this, that or another.
Ending discrimination begins by one person at a time being sympathetic to the burden others carry and communicating openly about the most innocuous oversight to the most egregious politically incorrect faux paus. It was incredibly courageous for Mr. McDonald to highlight his concern and it was a wonderful act by the Mirror to cover his story further to raise public awareness and sensitivity to perceived concerns.
I attended the City Vision session recently and had an opportunity to meet wonderful members of the community who are doing their part to address inequities across our community from mental health, violence, poverty, education, access to services and discrimination. I believe there is a great opportunity to leverage these services to improve the outcomes for all the children in the Federal Way Public Schools.
A final note about that mechanic. By coincidence he had worked on a car for a friend and his elderly father. Both felt grossly overcharged, so figuring he was unlikely biased against those of German ancestry as well, I felt almost relieved it had nothing to do with race. Such is life in a world of living color.
Allegations of racism, discrimination and abusive behavior are all handled very seriously by the Board of Education, Office of the Superintendent and our school district team members.
They may not be discussed publicly, but they have the full attention of legal counsel and even the police when necessary.
Thank you for the follow-up article in your newspaper. It reminded me that the opportunity to close the wounds of discrimination, perceived and otherwise, is there for any of us to seize with a sympathetic heart and make better every single day.
Hiroshi Eto, Federal Way Public Schools board director