Fresno School Slammed for Hiring White Teacher for Cultural Studies

Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 04:25 PM

By John Blosser

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A flap over whether a white teacher should lead a class on African-American, Latino, and Southeast Asian cultural studies has erupted at a Southwest Fresno middle school.

The Fresno Bee reports that the Fresno United School District hired Peter Beck, a white teacher with 10 years experience teaching Latino studies and four years teaching African-American studies, to teach cultural studies at the new school, but that decision doesn't sit well with a small, vocal group of community activists.

A group of African-American protesters, led by the Rev. Karen Crozier, held a demonstration and news conference in front of the Rutherford B. Gaston Sr. Middle School, named for the first African-American principal in the area, to object to Beck's hiring.

"We are still at these racial fault lines, and we want someone who will be able to think critically about those racial fault lines, and how do we help heal, to restore the problems that have existed,"  Crozier told the Bee.

She was accompanied by the Rev. Paul McCoy of the New Light for New Life Church of God, who The Daily Caller, in an article titled "Whites Need Not Apply" quoted as saying, "We're all faced today with so much dysfunction and violence from young people, and that violence is simply because they don't know who they are. They don't know where they come from."

The Bee notes that the new school is the first middle school in Southwest Fresno, home to the city's largest black community, since 1979. Prior to the new school opening this year, students had been bused to other area schools.

"We are always looking at the best, most experienced, most qualified who can provide the best education for our young people," district spokeswoman Micheline Golden told the Bee, while declining to specify the racial makeup of other applicants for the position.

The district's teachers include 3 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic, 64 percent Caucasian, and 8 percent Asian.

Cal Johnson, an African-American school district trustee, told the Bee, "I do not believe colorism trumps qualifications. I don't care whether it's black, brown or yellow."

Crozier said, "We're just saying what the community wants. We didn't fight for a white male or female teacher to educate our babies."

Mai Summer Vue, a community activist and teacher, told ABC30 News, "In order for one to convey the messages and teach the real lessons, the authentic lesson, it has to be someone who lives it and has been there."

Crozier told ABC30 that the school's principal told her "they had an African-American candidate, but the white candidate had a master's degree, and so in their mind that made him more qualified for this particular position.

"What we wanted was this new curriculum and for someone of our descent to teach this class," she said.

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