Is New York City Ready to Select a Chancellor in a Post Racial World?

* We’ve elected an Afro-American president – twice.

* A 2012 Gallup Poll reports, “Continuing to represent one of the largest shifts of public opinion in Gallup history, 87% of Americans now favor marriage between blacks and whites, up from 4% in 1958.”

“… the total number of interracially married couples has increased from 0.7% in 1970 to 3.9% in 2010.”

* In the September 2013 mayoral primary white candidate de Blasio and black candidate Thompson each received 42% of the Afro-American vote.

* The Supreme Court, in a number of decisions, sees, “affirmative as increasingly incompatible with the aims of the so-called post-racial age in which a first black president would seem to argue against any more need for racial redress,” writes Harvard professor Randall Kennedy.

Deborah Plummer, a psychologist writing on the Huffington Post “Black Voices ‘, see attitudes re race relations as a process,

A post-racial society is more like a continuous improvement process that requires incremental improvements over time rather than a “breakthrough” improvement that happens all at once as the result of a black American as president. Each one of us has to be involved in the continuous improvement process examining our own attributes and owning our behaviors…

Over the last week mayor-elect de Blasio announced the selection of Tony Shorris as first deputy mayor and Bill Bratton as police commissioner. Both selections were treated positively, with some discomfort over Bratton and whether his views on stop and frisk have mellowed since his days as commissioner in Los Angeles.

The next high profile selection is the chancellor – the leader of the school system. Education was a leading issue as de Blasio clawed his way to victory. He consistently opposed charter schools and co-location of charter schools in public school buildings, suggested charging charter schools rent, opposed the closing of struggling schools, letter-grade report cards and the overbearing testing-testing-testing regimen.

One would hope he would find a chancellor with a history that is congruent with the mayor-elect’s views. The current candidates of color who serve or served as large city school leaders, Kaya Henderson in DC, Barbara Byrd Bennett in Chicago and former supe in Baltimore, Andres Alonso, all followed the Broad Academy/Duncan/Bloomberg game book – charters, school closings, data and testing – all policies that would appear to be antithetical to the de Blasio game book. The selection would undoubted satisfy the NY Urban League and a host of electeds and activists who are demanding the appointment of a person of color to a high profile position in the administration, and, you can’t get much more high profile than chancellor.

Candidates, at least candidates in the press (see Gotham Schools here and the NY Daily News here) that espouse de Blasio’s policies are Josh Starr, superintendent in Montgomery County and Kathleen Cashin, a member of the Board of Regents with a long resume within New York City. Starr, in a high wealth district has been an aggressive opponent of testing, and had a lackluster six years as superintendent in Stamford, Cashin, in her role as a regent, voted against the Principal/Teacher Evaluation Plan and aggressively supports parents and classroom teacher, she was a beloved and highly effective superintendent in the poorest districts in New York City. Carmen Farina, who has been “out of the loop” for years, is a close advisor to de Blasio.

Communities of color seem to me to be far more “post-racial” than white communities. Neighborhoods are deeply ethnic – a friend of mine visiting from another city walked across Brooklyn, she couldn’t believe that Pakistani neighborhoods abutted an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood which nestled up to a Chinese neighborhood and a Caribbean area that led to a Russian community.

“Do they get along?” she asked.

I thought a moment, “Benign neglect,” and much better choices of restaurants.

If you are white you probably live in a white neighborhood with white friends and white work colleagues, if you’re a person of color you probably live in a community of color, however, you probably work in a predominantly white workplace, your kids’ teachers are probably mostly white, as are the local police.

You don’t applaud because the local cop on the beat is black or your daughter’s principal, you make your decisions on the quality of the police officer, the principal and the teacher.

Charles Barron may scream that skin color should be a first priority; parents and community members are far more sophisticated,

Let’s hope that for the sake of parents and kids the mayor-elect believes in a post racial world.

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2 responses to “Is New York City Ready to Select a Chancellor in a Post Racial World?

  1. For 35 years I heard that tired old dog’ bark to wit: white teachers don’t understand black children.They don’t understand black culture. They have low expectations for black students. They are secret rascists.They won’t make home visits.They blame any failures they may have on parents, environment,reverse racsism, and lack of support. After 35 years I can say w/o reservation that I know that none of the aforementioned refrains have merit. Are ther whites that those things can be said of?yes there are…did they work in our schools? yes they did. What percentage of the work force of white teachers and administrators held to those stereotypes? Was this a reciprocal state of affairs?You bet it was.Black teachers openly encouraged students to react negatively to their white teachers. My point here is that in both scenarios the numbers were small. This myth however was perpetrated and cultured throughout the decentralization years. So to consider candidates for the next Chancelorship as having to be someone of color as a top priority, is a step backward to those great days of decentralization. Its pandering and worse, it devalues what used to be the noblest of professions. Our school system is no longer a rainbow, it is a mosaic of cultures with all sorts of skin tones affixed to it. So lets try a novel approach, get the best man/woman for the job. The candidates that have been mentioned are committed to old time beliefs, and approaches. There must be some new, and younger superstar out there who could re-energize and re-invigorate our educators, educators who for the past 10 years have been laid low by a union busting bully. The new Mayor seems to have a flare for the unexpected, I would council that he should be looking at more resumes then those that have been bantered about by local media Our children deserve the most thorough of searches in this decision…Lets get a thinker in a thinking persons position.I said thinker, not thunker!

  2. Cashin was not beloved… she was feared. She put the MICRO in micromanagement… and hired friends with NO teaching qualifications to be department heads for the district.

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