BY Dr. Caesar R. Richburg || I want to personally take this opportunity to thank the Richland One Board of School Commissioners for initiating the discussion of race and social disparity in our local schools. As an AME Pastor and civil rights advocate, I understand the tenets of social justice and evoking change. It is my humble opinion that we need to ensure that all of our children are given the opportunity to succeed, and I appreciate Richland One’s efforts in this regard.
In listening to the Board’s work session on Wednesday, July 8, I became very disturbed when the discussion turned from what the District is doing within the schools to protect our future and toward a suggestion that any challenge made by White Board members to the actions of the District or other Board Members is motivated by race.
I am aware of the questions which have been raised as to the propriety of the Chairman’s wife receiving a contract with Richland One, and I agree wholeheartedly that these questions need to be raised. Definitely, the issue of the high percentage of bond work the Chairman’s wife receives from the District should be addressed. At a minimum, there is an appearance of impropriety in this arrangement. Many parents, taxpayers of Richland County and other stakeholders are wondering if this long-standing practice is in the best interest of the students and families of the Richland One community.
To suggest that questions from a White Board Member about these contracts is racially motivated is unfair and extremely appalling. Instead of making these baseless accusations, perhaps the other Board Members should be asking themselves why aren’t they asking these same questions?
We as a community must demand transparency as our actions today affect the future of our children. Instead of touting the high graduation rates of Richland One, why aren’t all the Board Members asking why we can’t graduate more, specifically in communities with a larger Black population? I would invite everyone to research the data that clearly shows the truth. Instead of simply relying upon some movement in test scores, shouldn’t all Board Members ask whether or not our children are being properly equipped for life when they matriculate through the Richland One school
From my vantage point, two White Board Members are the only Members who are asking these questions in an attempt to improve educational opportunities for our children, and thereby promote equality while the other Board Members appear to be happy with complacency. I have seen no suggestion or hint of racism in the questions posed by these two Board Members.
As a faith-based leader in the oldest African American denomination, it is my belief that mediocrity cannot be the standard for the students of Richland One, when many of them are the descendants of those who fought for equality in education. The comments during the work session directed toward these Board Members appear to be an effort to get them to “back off” or risk being labeled a “racist.”
We all understand that the original sin of slavery has created systematic racism in all facets of the American diaspora; however, this is not the case with regards to this situation. These two Richland One Board Members are far from “racists” because they ask the hard questions that other Board Members who are elected to protect our children should be asking. I urge them to keep asking these questions and fighting for our children.
Dr. Caesar R. Richburg is the Senior Pastor at Bethel AME Church in Columbia South Carolina.
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