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EDITORIAL – Anti-racism posters seemed like a good idea at the time

An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

PARENTS ARE understandably sensitive about what their kids are being taught in school, and they don’t like surprises.

Thus, when it came to light that schools in the Gold Trail School District — which includes Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Clinton and other communities — were displaying anti-racism posters about “white privilege,” they pushed back.

One of the posters featured a photo of superintendent of schools Teresa Downs with the quote, “I have unfairly benefitted from the colour of my skin. White privilege is not acceptable.”

Another says, “If you don’t have to think about it, it’s a privilege.”

It’s a puzzling campaign. Is Downs saying she’s been shown favoritism because of her race? In what way? It’s the kind of statement that demands context, but none is offered.

You and I might know that the term “white privilege” implies that advantages based on skin colour aren’t always direct and obvious, but students can’t be expected to whip out their smart phones and iPads to Google it.

It’s a controversial term because it ignores the fact that many white people don’t enjoy even the most basic of privileges such as shelter, clean drinking water and enough food for three squares a day.

Another complaint about the campaign is that parents weren’t told about it. That’s a legitimate concern. It would have been so easy to run it through Parent Teacher Councils or to send out a head’s up in school newsletters, but apparently nobody thought of it.

Communication and consultation are so often the first fatalities of good ideas. And good ideas that are communicated poorly have a habit of quickly becoming bad ones.

That doesn’t mean parents need to be asked for permission every time students are messaged on key values. Surely we can assume that teaching anti-racism in schools is a good thing. But the key is “teaching.”

Putting up posters with catchy slogans can actually do more harm than good, and if parents had been let in on the plan, the unexpected and unwanted results could have been avoided.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

 

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About Mel Rothenburger (5944 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Anti-racism posters seemed like a good idea at the time

  1. Just Sayin' // March 31, 2018 at 6:30 AM // Reply

    Dear Ms Downs
    If you feel so bad about accepting this position and have unfairly benefitted because of the colour of your skin, then I suggest you do the honourable thing.
    Give up your $150,000/year job to someone with the correct colour of skin that you feel would be more acceptable.
    Just Sayin’

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