Friday, May 13, 2011

Race at the Polls

Tuesday morning I dropped off my girls at their exemplary elementary school and headed to the voting booth. I had researched the candidates and knew who I would vote for. I also THOUGHT I knew how I would vote on the proposition to change the make-up of the BISD Board of Trustees. I considered all my thoughts on the merits of “yes” and “no” votes, because I do believe both sides do have merit. If you haven’t voted yet, the Enterprise endorsement and alternative view lay them out simply and well. As I stood there hovering over the touch screen, I recalled all of the talk I have heard and read from both sides of the issue. And this is when it got weird.

As I stood there my mind wondered to thoughts of how the two sides of this issue lie almost exclusively along either side of racial lines. All of the sudden, I wasn't thinking about the merits of the proposition, I was thinking about race. I was thinking about the comments on various blogs charged with accusations of race against one side or the other. I was thinking about my daughters and how wonderful their BISD experience had been under this divisive administration. I was thinking about the racial implications of the outcome of the election one way or the other. I was thinking about the distinct colors of BETTER and BEST. I was thinking about the lawsuits that had preceded this election, the ones ongoing and the ones that will likely follow no matter the outcome. I was thinking about whether a vote one way would be racist, or whether a vote the other way would be reverse-racism.

I was thinking about a million things, not one of them being the merits of the proposition. In fact, when I got home my wife asked me how I had voted. I honestly couldn’t and still don’t remember. I am embarrassed by that. I take my right to vote seriously and perform that duty proudly. But that is how confounded and distracted I was.

That is what modern racism does. It has become a tool. And nobody uses it better than Southeast Texas. Somewhere along the line a group decided to make our children’s public education a racial issue. Then the other side used accusations of racism to promote their position. And back and forth it goes, ad nauseam, until I am sitting in voting booths deciding whether it is racist or reverse-racist to vote for or against the proposition.

But here’s the thing - I think the people on both sides mean well. They all want a better school district. They want the best for our kids. I think that everyone would agree that They do. But racism got in the way of meaningful dialog and unified advancement.

How can we come together as a city and be all that our children deserve without our legacy of racism tainting the issues and clouding our judgment? This is something I will be giving a lot of thought to in the coming weeks. I hope you will as well.