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Racism, Cultural Diversity and Inclusion
March 8, 2021 at 9:00 PM
by Carrie Neal
Racism, Cultural Diversity and Inclusion

A few days ago, I read an article that had been published on The Root that discussed racism within a private school in Florida. The article entitled “A Florida School Decided to Confront Complaints of Racism…Until a Diversity Curriculum Caused Angst” by Michael Harriot. I normally skim past these articles because they are sometimes quite one-sided. However, due our current societal climate I felt compelled to see what this writer had to offer regarding this private educational institution.

The article spoke of a private pre-kindergarten through twelve school (Bolles School) located in Jacksonville, Florida. Parents pay between $12,000 - $29,000, in tuition fees for their children to attending this educational facility, and an additional $59,000 + for their children to have housing in one of their four campuses The demographics of the school is broken down as follows, 78% of the students are white and 4.5% of are Black – as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, although the schools diversity, equity and inclusion page fails to mention this information.

Bolles has been in existence for 88 years, which means that it has withstood and adapted beyond segregation, racism, elitism, and classism – so one would think. In June 2020 the Black alumni and current black students of Bolles penned a letter to the administration of the school demanding the following changes be instituted at the school. 1. Termination or resignation of six faculty members. 2. Ban the Confederate flag. 3. Acceptance of Black hairstyles. 4. More of a diverse faculty. 5. Zero-tolerance policy for racism. The students also built an IG account @blacksatbolles which spoke to the horrendous treatment that the students, parents, and alumni had received at the hands of fellow students, teachers, and administrators of the school. This information was submitted to the school administration along with the demand letter. Essentially, these Black students wanted and expected to be able to attend school and not be demeaned, demoralized, treated inhumanely, or face any sort of inequality or racial bias. They were seeking equality!

The school administration reviewed the letter and originally agreed that changes needed to occur. They announced in a letter dated July 17, 2020 that they needed to do better. They stated that they institute the following changes: 1. Hire more Black faculty. 2. Implement a more diverse curriculum. 3. Institute a zero-tolerance policy against racism. The school sought out the assistance of consultants, had all faculty attend workshops on diversity equity and inclusion, and then communicated to all students, parents, and alumni that they were instituting racial literacy into the curriculum of the school. And approximately seven months later the school administration completely rescinded their previous agreement.

It is stated that four of their most wealthy donors, who also happened to be ex chairmen of the board, penned a letter to over 30 stakeholders of the school informing them that it was their opinion that the school administration was essentially bending to pressure by incorporating the new curriculum. They felt that the new curriculum would be telling students how to think. Their instructions to all were that the goals shou be unity, instead of the promotion of sub-groups that are based upon religion, the color of a person’s skin, sexual preferences or ethnicity. They went on to state that changing the curriculum of the school would only breed division instead of understanding. So, to put it in layman’s terms – don’t you dare change a thing about the school or its curriculum, if you do you will lose all financial support from us and others like us!

One Black student was interview for this article and stated that this year has actually been a lot better, and the reason for that is because they have been online for the school year. In fact, they are seeking to get permission to finish their last year online as well in an effort to thwart the racism they had received throughout the previous years.

I read this article through multiple lens – as a Black person, the mother of Black young adults, and as a Black business owner who helps business incorporate diversity equity and inclusion into their organizations. And through each and every one of those lens’ I was in complete dismay. As a Black person, I know the struggles that we have gone through as we seek equality and justice, and to see that we are no further than we were more than 60 years ago is completely disheartening. As a mother of Black young adults – this article took me back to a time when I had to explain to my then 6 year old daughter whose best friend at the time was white that she was unable to go to her best friend’s birthday party because her parents said she was not invited, due to the color of her skin. The hurt on my daughter’s face was just as prevalent then as it was a year ago when her very close friend’s mother announced that they can no longer be friends because of the color of my daughter’s skin. And as a Black business owner who assist businesses with incorporating diversity equity and inclusion – it reaffirmed for me the fact that so many of us focus on racism, systemic and institutional racism, in the workforce, but the unfortunate reality is that it begins long before individuals immerse themselves into the workforce. We as a human race have got to do better…

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