Hello Blueberry friends! With mixed emotions, as of June 20, I have retired from the Blueberry farm [Tribune, June 1, 2020.] I have turned the farm over to my nephew, Andy Pearson. He and I have been working closely together to make it a smooth transition. It has been a wonderful journey these 30 years. So much so, that it brought me into a close relationship with the Heavenly Father. How cool is that! I close in saying how much I appreciate you coming to our farm. So many good memories. All of you have been very special to me, and I hope the best for each and every one of you.
Not systemic racism
First, as with every decent human being, I am appalled at Mr. George Floyd’s death at the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin and the three officers who witnessed but did not intervene. These former officers are depraved individuals and deserve the fullest possible prosecution of the law. But, have you noticed how quickly the situation turned from justified anger and protest to an attack on “systemic racism,” as if the entire American system was somehow rigged against black people? In 2020, it can be argued that the “system” bends over backward to assist blacks and other minorities. A few facts are in order. From many jurisdictions, minority-owned businesses get preferential treatment when bidding on lucrative government contracts. On university campuses, black students have their student organizations and many scholarship opportunities are available only to blacks. It is generally understood that blacks receive Brownie points on the scholastic aptitude tests. In the professional sphere, there are organizations with membership open strictly for blacks. The list goes on. While blacks are killed by police at a higher rate than whites, more whites than blacks are killed by police each year, many just as unjustly as Floyd. In recent years, the number of deaths at the hands of police has actually dropped for all races. While this is a good development, this is probably due to a pullback in policing due to the Ferguson effect. I fear this trend is likely to continue in response to the attacks on policing that have happened.
I do not understand racism, which stems from one’s skin color. It makes no more sense to me than judging someone based on eye or hair color. Some folks have blue eyes; some have brown eyes; others have green eyes. Some folks have brown hair; some have blond hair; others have red or black hair. Some folks have light-colored skin; others have brown skin; still others have even darker skin. What’s the big deal about skin color? I taught one year at Prairie View A&M. Most of its students are black. I taught three undergraduate classes and one graduate-level course. Two of my undergraduate students accused me of racism. The eight charges against me went to the university’s provost. A friend of mine (chairman of Ohio State Univ. ’s Accounting Department) advised me to hire an attorney. I hired a woman attorney who is board certified in employment law. She prepared a superb letter defending me against the charges. Upon receiving that letter, the school began investigating the charges. I eventually was exonerated of all charges. If the accounting department had investigated the allegations against me before sending them to the provost, it would have saved me almost $4,000 in attorney’s fees. Unfortunately, I was on the receiving end of discrimination in one of the undergraduate classes I taught there. It was so bad that I began openly tape recording every class session. It worked beautifully. The verbal abuse I had endured stopped. I don’t care about the color of student X’s hair, eyes or skin; I care about X’s intellect. I don’t know or care about its color.
A successful return to school for next semester depends on a large variety of factors that I know you have been grappling with and planning for in the past few weeks. However, the most important factor for success will be confidence — by school employees that their return to work will be as safe as possible and by children and families, those who are at the highest risk, that they will be protected at school. No matter how carefully you plan and how effective the resulting implementation is, it won’t matter if you haven’t gained the confidence of the full team of school employees by providing them meaningful opportunities to be involved in all phases of planning. It’s their future and their health, and they rightly should expect every opportunity possible to know they are valued and respected. This is a lot of work. We are here to help. Engaging our school employees is the foundation of what we do every day. We also have expertise in both the nitty gritty of worker safety and how to effectively involve community stakeholders. Those who are at the highest risk of infection need to be taken care of and respected. Those with health issues should not be cast aside for budgetary reasons or because the means to accommodate these issues seems daunting and out of the norm. The district should guide them and explore every possible solution to keeping them as part of the team. We must rise to this challenge if we want our school teams to be prepared, confident and supported for a return to school.
Texas AFT President