Citizens Protest Hiring of White Man to Teach Cultural Studies

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Citizens and community leaders in Fresno, California are speaking out against the hiring of a White man teaching African-American, Latino and Southeast Asia studies at the new Rutherford B. Gatson Middle School – the first southwest Fresno middle school in decades.

District officials told the Fresno Bee that they had the intention of hiring a person of color, but unfortunately did not find anyone who held the desired qualifications.

The winning candidate turned out to be Peter Beck, a former teacher at Hoover High School with a decade of experience teaching Latino studies and two years teaching African-American courses. In addition to his teaching resume, Beck also led a leadership class for at-risk teens for four years.

Despite credentials, Fresno’s Black community strongly stated that it’s imperative that students have teachers who reflect their ethnic and racial background during a gathering held on the school grounds and led by Rev. Karen Crozier.

“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 said during the gathering.

District Trustee Cal Johnson, who had no role in the hiring process, but supports Beck’s hiring, expressed, “I do not believe colorism trumps qualifications.”

We talk, argue and strongly voice our thoughts and opinions on providing quality education and resources for our youth. Does the discussion now include, “only if quality comes in the right color, too?”

Granted, the understanding is there in terms of instructors needing to be able to relate to their students and identify with certain experiences and life challenges- to an extent. The tough call is finding the right candidates to take on that job while also offering youth a broader perspective of the world and its possibilities.

Meet the student where they are, but don’t shy away from educating them beyond their circumstance.

How do you feel about school district’s choice in hiring Beck? Let us know in the comments!