Principal Verenice Gutierrez in Portland, Oregon is the center of a controversy over her efforts to deal with racism and cultural intolerance. There is certainly plenty of such examples in most states, but Gutierrez is being criticized for finding such prejudice in the peanut butter. The principal at Harvey Scott elementary school cited peanut butter sandwiches as an example of how innocently insensitive we can be our prejudices since we do not think “Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches.” Frankly, I am pretty sure that Somali kids will knew what to do with a P & J without crawling in to a fetal position of fear over the latent racism contained in the lunchtime baggy. In defense of Gutierrez, she was trying to suggest an effort to reach out to learn different cultural preferences: “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.” While I question the choice of the example, the point is to get teachers to think of the cultural realities and experiences of their students. However, in my view, other aspects of the training sessions are more problematic.
Gutierrez’s comments came with a week of “Courageous Conversations,” the district-wide equity training for teachers. The program expressly tries to get teachers (presumably white teachers) to understand their own “white privilege.” It seems a bit odd to deal with latent hostility or insensitivity in the schools by demanding white teachers to rid themselves of their “white privilege” bias.
I am more concerned with the response to a drum class being offered to middle school boys of color at Scott School. Chuck Barber, who also offers boys’ drum corps at other schools, to start a lunch-time drum class that would be limited to black and Latino boys. There were objections that the group would obviously discriminate against girls, Asians, whites and Native Americans. I have serious doubts over its legality but even greater question over its underlying policy of exclusion.
However, it is Gutierrez’s reported response that is the most troubling: “When white people do it, it is not a problem, but if it’s for kids of color, then it’s a problem?. Break it down for me. That’s your white privilege, and your whiteness.”
If this quote is accurate, it is highly disturbing. I do not know of any clubs in public schools that have been limited to white children since desegregation. Moreover, the opposition to racial segregation is not a factor of white privilege but civil rights. The alleged comment struck a chord with me because of prior column criticizing the return of “separate but equal” and segregation policies in our public schools. (here and here and here and here and here). I do not understand the perceived value of a segregated drum corp or how an educator could tell girls or asians or whites that they cannot join due to their color or gender. It is a curious way to reinforce tolerance through discrimination if true.
Source: Portland Tribune