I am writing in response to the March 16 letter of Allon Friedman. The fears expressed by Mr. Friedman about the new DEI coordinator are not concerns I recognize as the parent of two children in Carmel Clay Schools.
Mr. Friedman expresses two basic positions. He argues that identity politics is essentially superficial and suggests that DEI encourages “victimhood,” not “strength and resiliency” when addressing life’s misfortune. Neither position stands up to scrutiny.
The concern about identity politics fails to recognize the circumstances under which identities develop. Identities are not arbitrary. They are defined by social expectations and understandings, which are the legacy of cultural conditioning and centuries of history. Nor does Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. offer support for Mr. Friedman’s position. MLK was responding to the identities fixed to him by others and looking forward toward a time when people would be judged by their character. We have much to do to realize Rev. King’s vision. The employment of Terri Roberts-Leonard as DEI coordinator will help our community at least take a step in that direction.
The aim of DEI initiatives in K-12 schools is not to ensure equal outcomes. It is to ensure that each student gets the same opportunity to succeed. Mr. Friedman’s argument here is contradictory. Students should learn “strength and resiliency” to overcome “life’s challenges.” But what are these challenges? They are the identities placed on students, particularly Black students, here in Carmel and across the nation.
The decision to employ a DEI coordinator is not irresponsible. Far from it. Both Current in Carmel and the school administration have acknowledged that CCS has a problem with institutional racism. Hiring a DEI coordinator is a responsible and measured form of redress to a problem buried deep within this community.
Luke Reader, Carmel