by Bill Forman
Whatever backlash the election of a black president may have inspired, I'm still surprised by the institutional racism of a Mississippi public school that earlier this month prohibited black students from running for class president. Under the announced rules, black students were relegated to lower offices as follows:
Following parent complaints and reports last week by blogs like The Smoking Gun, Mixed and Happy and Gawker, the Nettleton School District retracted its policy, which had designated 8 of the 12 positions for white students only. (Mixed-race and other racial categories were left out of the equation entirely.)
Amazingly, the school district's media statement characterizes the wayward policy as some kind of attempt at affirmative action (apparently making up for centuries of black discrimination against white people). Here's the text:
After being notified of a grievance regarding upcoming student elections at Nettleton Middle School, research was conducted that evidenced that the current practices and procedures for student elections have existed for over 30 years. It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body. It is felt the intent of these election procedures was to ensure African-American representation in each student office category through an annual rotation basis.
It is our hope and desire that these practices and procedures are no longer needed to help ensure minority representation and involvement. Furthermore, the Nettleton School District acknowledges and embraces the fact that we are growing in ethnic diversity and that the classifications of Caucasian and African-American no longer reflect our entire student body.
Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity. It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office. Future student elections will be monitored to help ensure that this change in process and procedure does not adversely affect minority representation in student elections.
All of which begs the question of whether the folks running the Nettleton School District are overtly racist or incredibly stupid. In this case, I'd say it's not a case of either/or. It's obviously both/and.