Hickey was right to veto calendar that put minorities in 0) background
A picture is worth a thousand words. I want to praise Michael Hickey, Howard County school superintendent, for ensuring that the images coming from his 1996-97 school calendar will be one of inclusion and real diversity.
As a past PTA president and parent, I am pleased to know that the head of our school system has more sensitivity than some local politicians. Yes, the children had "sweet faces" and their faces alone had nothing to do with the negative image that many minorities and people with a stronger racial understanding may have noticed.
Wanda Hurt, I am one-quarter white, so am I classified as someone who can't see that the children of color on the calendar are completely upstaged and obscured by the white children in the foreground? Imagine what the community would think if the people in the picture were reversed?
At a time when school systems are desperately struggling to maintain essential programs, activities, services and even buildings, I am appalled that Howard County would consider wasting $5,700 on a photograph.
I can see how the picture might be misinterpreted, and perhaps an apology, or better, a clarifying statement is not inappropriate. But if Howard County schools really care about diversity and tolerance, they would do better to use their money to keep programs, such as the Black Student Achievement Program, alive.
An article in The Sun August 20 tells of Howard County school Superintendent Michael Hickey's decision to recall the 1996-97 school calendar because of a racially insensitive photo on the cover. I applaud Mr. Hickey's decision.
On the other hand, I question the lack of sensitivity of Wanda Hurt, a member of Howard's PTA Council, who is quoted as saying that she is "offended that the picture might be recalled." Stating that she is "three-eighths Native American," she seeks to make it permissible for the minority students shown in the background of the photo to be marginalized in the same way that minorities, including Native Americans, have been relegated the margins and background of society in this country for too many years.
I also feel that the comments attributed to school board Chairwoman Susan J. Cook, who said she was not offended by the photo, to be indicative of a similar lack of sensitivity.
I appreciate that this whole issue falls into the category of unintended consequences. However, once it was brought to the attention of Dr. Hickey, he made the only right call. I would only wish that other "leaders" in this scenario would act in the same way.
Roland E. Livingston
The Howard County school system calendar cover illuminates for us that the mental illness of white supremacy is still so deep in the American culture that some of the PTA Council and the
school board can look at that picture and not see the clear symbolic message that "if you're white, you're all right and if you're black, get back!"
That is the very message that is communicated frequently to African-Americans and all children in the schools. The cost of that message in damage to human life and human possibility is beyond calculation.
Last month, at a conference I attended in West Africa, a scholar made a profound observation. "There are many good white people," he said. "The problem is that they seldom seem to be the ones in charge." In this instance, though, the whole Howard ** County community is fortunate that it had Mike Hickey in charge. He saw clearly what others avoided seeing.
The writer is vice president for operations, African-American Coalition of Howard County.
Norris West's column of August 18 ("New black GOP club, but Grand Old Pattern") is based largely on a factually incorrect interpretation of the historical record. As a more-than-casual observer of Southern politics and history, I would like to point out that Mr. West's statement that the Republican Party was the "party that resisted civil rights legislation even at the height of the movement" is very inaccurate.
The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed, in large part, because of the support of Republicans. In fact, Republicans in both the House and Senate supported these two bills in higher percentages than did congressional Democrats.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 289-126, with the final bill supported by:
80 percent of House Republicans (136 out of 171), but only 63 percent of House Democrats (153 out of 244).
On the Senate side, the final bill was approved by a vote of DTC 73-27, with:
82 percent of Republicans voting "yes" (27 out of 33) and only 69 percent of Democrats doing so (46 out of 67).
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed the House on a vote of 328-74, with:
85 percent of Republicans voting "yes" (111 out of 131), compared to 80 percent of Democrats (217 out of 271).
In the Senate, it was approved on a 79-18 vote with:
97 percent of Republicans (30 out of 31) and 74 percent of Democrats (49 out of 66) in support.
Not only did Senate Republicans support both of these major reforms, Minority Leader Everett Dirksen helped ensure their passage by holding the GOP bloc together in voting for cloture, that is to cut off debate and end the filibuster orchestrated by the Democratic opponents of these bills.
The fact is, there were supporters and opponents of civil rights legislation in both major political parties throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but the primary opposition to them was among the politically potent Southern wing of the Democratic Party.
Mr. West may not know this, but it was President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, who sent federal troops to Little Rock to force the integration of public schools in Arkansas over the objections of Gov. Orval Faubus, a Democrat. President Eisenhower was also responsible for the appointment of Republican Earl Warren as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and it was under Justice Warren's leadership that the court struck down the segregation of public schools ("Brown v. Board of Education") and most of the "Jim Crow" laws designed to prevent integration. Unfortunately, those who do not follow these things closely or children who have not thoroughly studied this period in American history could be led to believe that Mr. West's distortion of the record is the truth. Sadly, this is just another example of ignorance in the media providing us with revisionist history to support an editorial viewpoint.
J. Bradford Coker
The writer is president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research.
Pub Date: 9/01/96