Yesterday we posted the majority of responses on our third weekly question to school board candidates. Today we have Chuck Rairdan’s response and Tom Adams is supposed to send us one as well. We ask the following: On December 1, 2012, residents from Davis and across the region attended a Davis Human Relations Commission hosted event called “Breaking the Silence of Racism.” For a summary of the event please see here – https://www.davisvanguard.org/special-commentary-unaddressed-problems-for-child-of-color-in-djusd/
A number of the public commenters complained about climate issues in the school including racially based bullying, disparities in discipline between races, treatment of mixed race kids, and the lack of attention given to the issue of race and racism by school climate committees. Some parents of children of color or mixed race said that their children never were comfortable in Davis schools and ended up transferring.
In the two years since the event, minimal progress has been made.
If elected, how would you direct the district to address issues of race, race relations, and racism?
Chuck Rairdan: I think, for starters, we have to look at the history of Davis as being a predominantly white, affluent town within the context of the neighboring Central Valley communities. Over the years, Davis has become increasingly diverse and cosmopolitan in its demographics and this trend continues. I see at least two main drivers for how this is occurring. For one, there is a general trend toward more racial mixing in the U.S., even while there remain stubborn pockets of de facto segregation along racial and socioeconomic lines.
Secondly, as UC Davis becomes increasingly cosmopolitan in its faculty and student body, we see that trend reflected in the Davis population. What was once primarily an agriculturally focused university has expanded its program offerings to be much more typical of a large, world-class university. What hasn’t kept pace with these changes, in my opinion, is a corresponding change in the prevailing mindset that has its roots in Davis’ history. Being a predominantly ‘liberal’ town does not automatically convey a change in longstanding perceptions and attitudes. It will take a conscious effort on the part of community leaders and at the family and individual levels to make strides toward a truly inclusive culture in Davis.
For its part, the school district needs to increase its efforts to raise awareness about both subtle and not-so-subtle expressions of discrimination, regardless of whether it is motivated by race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or anything else that makes a student “different” in the eyes of the status quo. Along with these educational efforts and restorative justice up to a point, there ultimately needs to a zero tolerance policy for offenders, including those in positions of responsibility who choose to look the other way. We also need to have honest discussions about where the bullying or offending students are learning these hurtful behaviors and be prepared to address those at the source. Otherwise, we’ll just be applying band aids to a self-perpetuating problem.