Westport’s new BOE must explain “equity” and “antiracism” to the community

Westport’s new BOE must explain “equity” and “antiracism” to the community

Nov 17, 2021 By WP06880

T his week, the Town of Westport inaugurated four new members of the Board of Education. The parents of Westport are truly counting on these individuals to use their best judgment and apply the highest ethical standards as they take on significant responsibility for the intellectual and personal development of our children. We wish them all well.

During and prior to the election campaign, we have seen expressions of commitment to the concepts of “equity” and “antiracism” by candidates, members of the Board of Ed and the Administration. While these terms sound positive, the specific meaning of these terms has been the source of some confusion and debate within the Westport community. As the newly constituted Board of Education begins its important work, members of the community might find it useful to obtain a very clear understanding from Board members themselves as to what exactly these concepts mean to them and how they may be applied within our schools.

Ibram X. Kendi is a leading contemporary scholar on this subject matter. His work in various forms is assigned or recommended reading by Westport teachers across all age groups. He writes in his best-selling book “How to Be an Antiracist”:

Since the 1960s, racist power has commandeered the term “racial discrimination,” transforming the act of discriminating on the basis of race into an inherently racist act. But if racial discrimination is defined as treating, considering, or making a distinction in favor or against an individual based on that person’s race, then racial discrimination is not inherently racist. The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist… The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.

As Westport schools sort out and pursue their various objectives with regard to “equity” and “antiracism,” we ask members of the Board of Education to clarify if they agree with Kendi’s description and use of these terms.

More specifically, as you fulfill your obligations to the children of Westport, do you intend to engage in racial discrimination to counteract what you may perceive as a state of “present discrimination,” as described above?

Will you support the implementation of programs and policies that involve racial discrimination for purposes of “creating equity,” as described above?

Will you promote curriculum decisions and other changes that adopt (and encourage our children to adopt) Kendi’s interpretation of racial discrimination, as described above?

We strongly encourage you to move beyond flippant use of trendy buzzwords and be specific about the intellectual framework you intend to apply as you fulfill the obligations expressed in the oath you took this week. Transparency around whether you embrace or reject Kendi’s views of equity and antiracism is perhaps a helpful starting point that will allow community members to contextualize and evaluate the decisions you will make over the next four years. If you as individual Board members are committed to applying racial discrimination as a tool for achieving equity, as Kendi favors, we are certain parents in Westport will want to be made aware of this. Given the extraordinary relevance to the academic success and psychological well-being of our children, we believe community members deserve clear answers to these clear questions.