Race stats story creates division instead of unity

Tue, 02/21/2006 - 4:50pm
By: Letters to the ...

As long-term resident of Fayette County, I have seen tremendous changes not only in the economic landscape of the area, but also witnessed astounding paradigm shifts in the social and demographic landscape of this county. What compelled me to move here, with my wife and three children, was a sense of community, safety and education that I found lacking in other areas across metro Atlanta.

I have always used The Citizen as resource to learn about a variety of issues and concerns affecting our neighborhoods, a great restaurant or even a good yard sale or two. But I feel the editorial direction of this publication has started to become a mouthpiece for ultra-conservatives who see the growing diversity of our county as distraction and hindrance to our growth.

For weeks, headlines and editorials from readers have read, “Out of county tags increase at schools” and now the headline, “Local schools see big racial shift,” only feed into the fears of certain members of our citizenry who feel the browner our schools become the lower our education scores or home values will become.

Even with the increase of minorities within the Fayette County school system, our education scores (SAT/ACT and gateway tests) remain among the highest in the state and our teaching methods emulated statewide.

Many of the African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans families moving into the county are highly-educated, middle and upper-class with an active desire to help their children excel and achieve at levels beyond the stereotypical images of minority students being depicted as “lazy,” “complacent” or “uncaring.”

In addition, many of those out-of-county tags belong to former residents of metro counties (across the racial spectrum) who have moved here for the same living and education reasons I stated earlier, paying taxes and contributing to growth of our county.

What that headline did was create or feed into a xenophobic or “white flight” mentality that needs to cease to create a more multicultural community for our children and this country as a whole.

Someone looking to move to Fayette County should not read this article and say, “I shouldn’t move to that Fayette neighborhood or send my child to that school because it has large minority base; therefore it lacks certain tools, instructors or low scores.”

The goal and mandate of our county should be to ensure that EVERY school is equipped equally with best teachers, best equipment and best opportunities for every one of our students to excel: That the only barrier to success is the limit they personally place on themselves.

I applaud our Board of Education for addressing the needs of non-English speaking students and introducing diversity programs such as stepping in our schools. But as a reader of your publication, let’s responsibly refrain from using their data or other government data to feed into fears about other groups. Responsible journalism calls for tact and objectivity and not sensationalism.

The photo of the two pastors (one white and one black) on the newspaper this week visualized clearly what needs to take place in our county: continued dialogue instead of fear; cooperation instead of divisiveness. There are far too many issues to unite us than there should be to divide us.

Robert Jacks
Fayette County, Ga.

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