Letter: Diversity coordinator position is not a racist agenda

To the Editor-

I am a graduate of Stevens Point Area Senior High School. I’ve been through the school district, and I have an insider’s perspective as to why it is absolutely necessary for the district to open to the idea of a diversity and equality coordinator.

Portage County is predominantly white, and white people, including myself, benefit from a system that was built by white people for white people. This includes our schools and the mentality of folks from this area. Residents of Portage County often believe that racism does not exist in our area because they don’t experience it or feel it. That’s a no-brainer; you’re white, and your experiences will not match those of a black person or someone who is Asian, or someone who comes from a Hispanic background.

But it is our job as white folks to make sure that we use our privilege to make sure that we are not discriminating against people from backgrounds that aren’t solely white and incorporating into our education knowledge and respect for those of whom do not benefit from a white-centric education.

We fail to acknowledge that our history courses are centered around white figures in history who have done horrible things (for example, the founding fathers and slavery), and we fail to acknowledge atrocities committed against Native Americans beyond the Trail of Tears. We learn about white culture, but not about other cultures—those are only accessible mostly in post-secondary education.

Having a Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion position makes these other parts of history more accessible, creating a better learning environment for all. It would help improve relations between white students and students who are “others” because of the promotion of the idea that we are different, and we are able to navigate these differences in a way that is equitable and respectful.

If you’ve been in the halls of SPASH within the past decade or so, you would know that the students would benefit from diversity awareness because of the racist and homophobic attitudes perpetuated by some students. Education is not just for white, straight, cisgender students. The notion that this is some racist agenda is misguided; the experiences that people face with others are heavily influenced by skin color, sexuality, and gender identity, and it is important to recognize those differences.

Our community, as proven by the Letter to the Editor published Feb. 21, regarding the district’s decision to discuss the position, is becoming more and more racist and close-minded, and that’s not a community that fosters the growth of the individual.

Jessica Harlan

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