Ethnic Diversity an Issue in 2007?

Group says Mount Pleasant School District needs more diversity among principals. KIDS: 70 PERCENT LATINO; PRINCIPALS: ALL WHITE

This was the headline in an article in the San Jose Mercury News….

I’ve made no secret that I live in East San Jose. To say that it’s diverse would be an understatement. Not too long ago, a parent group at a school complained about the lack of diversity in the administration because of the hiring of a non-Hispanic principal at a school in the district, and it appears that the Latino Leadership Alliance has sent a letter to the school district stating “the district’s failure to assemble a diverse pool of school principals is unacceptable and irresponsible in a valley that is renowned for diversity.”

For anyone who knows me, it had me thinking…

The San Jose Mercury News article here.

I attended schools in this district, and am active within the school district as a parent and have been quite happy with the leadership. I also have no problems with the composition of the administration or the principals. They are all highly qualified for their positions and see them as fine leaders within my community. Why all of a sudden does this group single out the ethnicity…. lets cut to it… race of the principals. Why do people complain about race, while few people argue about qualifications?

First, I have to say that I’m Filipino. For some reason, it comforts me to say that prior to saying the following. Personally, hiring based on ethnicity is wrong. Professionally, I’ve always been hired for my qualifications, never for the color of my skin.

This harkens to the days of affirmative action, and whatever hiring practices to increase the diversity of a workforce.

Over a decade ago, I remember Bill Cosby coming out against practices like affirmative action. Roughly the same time, an outspoken San Jose State University professor named Shelby Steele was heavily persecuted for his opposition of affirmative action programs. Also, while I was in college I took an ethics course in race, religion and gender where the professor was equally against affirmative action because of the artificial elevation of candidates based on race, not on credentials, merits or qualifications. He too was African-American. Bill Cosby didn’t win any accolades from the NAACP for supporting this view. I’m not sure if he’s ever changed his position on it either.

Now for some background on me, so you know where I’m coming from. I was born in South Carolina to my mom, a Filipina and former accountant turned homemaker and my dad, a career Navy-man who enlisted in the Philippines, retiring after 24 years of active service. He earned the privilege to be one of the first Filipino Chief Petty Officers in the Navy around 1978. He was easy to spot in many of the pictures – he was always the short brown guy, or the short guy with a really brown face against a sea of uniforms. When he made up his mind to move up in the ranks, many reminded him of the ever prevalent racial glass ceiling… others told him that he wasn’t capable (because he was Filipino). He proved them all wrong. The irony of the whole thing is the people who dissuaded him from achieving more were his peers, some of whom were Filipino. My dad’s Commanding Officer and his prior Commanding Officers were confident in my dad’s abilities. I remember my dad saying that one of his CO’s called him, introduced himself followed by 3 words, “It’s about time…” If that ain’t American, I don’t know what is.

My dad taught me that I’m respected for who I am and my actions, not by the color of my skin. As far as I know, I’ve never been given preferential treatment because of my ethnicity. Thanks to people like my dad and a countless number of civil rights activists that made it possible for me to be measured by my own merits. Let me tell you, I’m taking full advantage of the opportunities, and I continue to make more opportunities on my own. I’ve never had anyone tell me I couldn’t do something, or achieve something because of the color of my skin. I’m proud of my heritage, and I’m proud of my culture in this country… but that has nothing to do with my abilities to achieve and to contribute to anything.

What does this have to do with the article?

While I haven’t seen the complaint, based on the story and the sequence of events since the start of Summer 2007, the complaint comes from the hiring of a non-Hispanic principal at the school that was initiated through a parent group at Ida Jew Elementary School representing the interests of the Spanish/English immersion program (see the article for details). Ida Jew is a newly created school with a K-5 program resulting from the district restructuring during the Summer of 2007.

Why does this bother me? What does the principal’s ethnicity have to do with being able to do the job – the principal’s job is to run the school? I don’t know if I buy the claim of strong role-models. Shouldn’t those role-models begin within the home? In my case, while I mentioned my dad, both my parents were great role-models for both myself and my sister, even to my friends, and they continue to be so to their grandchildren. Why would it matter if a role model is not of a specific ethnic background? Martin Luther King and C├ęsar Chavez looked to Gandhi as a role model. Did choosing an Indian guy hurt them? I don’t think anyone would argue about any of their contributions to improving our society or to their successes based on passive resistance — there was such unbelievable power in the movements they all represent.

People aren’t great role models because of their ethnicity or whatever discriminatory trait that can be thought of… they are such because of their contributions, what they believe in, their ability to make things happen and the inspiration they provide. If we ever start believing that people can’t be great role models because of the color of their skin, then the civil rights leaders who transformed our country into what it is were all wrong and we’ve plunged back into dark turbulent times.

Before anyone starts branding me a Conservative Republican. I’m a registered Democrat that believes that truth, fairness and equality are unwaivering virtues that are corrupted only by those who are in power, or by those who desire power.

As if I haven’t said enough… I just wanted to leave you with this…

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed–we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Martin Luther King said those words, and many more 44 years ago… To my community, and to those who are raising issue with the Mount Pleasant School District… how you handle things not only affects the community, but the lessons and the legacy you bestow upon your children.

Finding and recommending candidates who are not only qualified, but who fit your qualifications as terrific role models for the community would be a great first step for any future hiring.

Please don’t let the dream die…. because you are the role model….

1 Comment so far

  1. joann Landers (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2007 @ 4:34 am

    A well stated belief.

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