Regarding race as an issue in discussions concerning the behavior of the President of the Washoe County Schools Board of Trustees, the District Superintendent

Regarding race as an issue in discussions concerning the behavior of the President of the Washoe County Schools Board of Trustees, the District Superintendent, and the Board Chairperson’s ability to deal reasonably and objectively with the Superintendent.

Sensitive issues cannot be discussed with proper sensitivity unless sensitivity and its affects on discussion are considered.  For in fact, many an important discussion is impeded and impaired by sensitivity to sensitivity.  I have been aware of this for a long time now but have not addressed the sensitivity issue because I believe that I will be found to be insensitive for saying some of the things that must be said.  I believe this because whenever I have begun to broach the subject the response from people I respect has indicated that they are feeling that I am crossing a line and that line demarcates between the places where decency resides and those where indecency prevails.  It is not decent to be insensitive because insensitivity leads to conduct that hurts feelings and it is particularly indecent when the hurt feelings touch upon aspects of character.  To say that another is too sensitive is to be critical of character even when what is said is intended to get at a truth to which another is sensitive because of his or her character.  If one is sensitive to this, he or she will find him or herself avoiding the telling of what he or she understands to be the truth.  Truth is harmed by oversensitivity to sensitivity and sensitivity to sensitivity often results from one’s desire to be a decent person.

The reason I need to speak to sensitivity and issues of decency related to sensitivity now is because recent events force me to do so.  I need to speak to these issues and some aspects of these issues taken me into places and encounters with people where sensitivity has been made an issues and recriminations of indecency for how such sensitive matters are being handled by some involved in the conversation.


In this case, the sensitive matter is that matter of race as it figures into discussion of the behavior of members of our local school board, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.  Two members of the Board are African Americans, one of whom is the President of the Board, and they, I am arguing, should provide proper oversight over the District Superintendent who, herself, is African American.  Some in the community who have been observing the public behavior of the President of the Board of Trustees, as leader of the oversight board, and the Superintendent, believe as I believe that the Board President is not acting as a proper oversight leader, that she is too close to the Superintendent to be impartial in performing that role in the best interest of students who attend school in the District.


Criticism of the Board President and the Superintendent and concern for the relationship they share influencing unfairly the judgements of the Board President in her capacity as oversight leader.  Being that both are of African American background, some, many of whom are also African American, are accusing critics of the Board President, the Superintendent, in particular, concern for the effect of the relationship on decisions being made by the Board President regarding the Superintendent’s performance, as being racially motivated.


The claims of racist judgment on the part of critics gains credibility for they exist in an environment where sensitivity to racism is understood to be, and rightly so, essential to the existence of the decent community.  To say that one who is African American is being overly sensitive, to say that their oversensitivity is obscuring their good judgment is, and for good and historical reasons, seen by many to be an affront to those who have had to endure the hardships that racism, real and vicious, have brought upon them, hardships that have, for a good many have affected in profound ways the lives they have lived in this United States of America.


To argue, as one who has not had to endure the effects of racism, that those who have are being overly sensitive in responding to criticism of the Board President and the Superintendent and the effects that relationship is having on decision making at the top levels of the Washoe County School District, understandably appears to some who have had to endure as being insensitive and indecently so.  There is an irrefutable history that does validate in certain ways the claim that the criticism originates with racism.


Where I find it within myself to make the counter claim that in this particular case, at least as it originates with individuals who are processing the information and coming to conclusions that necessitate the questioning of the behavior of the President of the Board, the behavior of the Superintendent and the Board President’s oversight of the Superintendent, racism is not an eminent factor.  But race is, not because it is affecting the judgment of the critics but the way in which those judging the critics are responding to the critique.  Race is obscuring the real issues and preventing a proper conversation about those issues and how problems related to these issues can be solved.


My problems with Angela Taylor and Tracy Davis are not caused by my racist view of things.  Race only figures in because I do know of their racial background and, more importantly, there are some who are using race, theirs and mine, to diminish, to disrespect, to devalue what I and others have offered as legitimate criticism of legitimate people who deserve to be respected in such a way as to be receptive to the criticism they receive if it is legitimate criticism.



By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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