Muddying the waters school board election
To the Editor:
Over the past few weeks, a series of letters has appeared in local papers which seems to be part of a continued campaign both locally and nationally to drive Americans apart. One writer stated, “Those who do not look or believe the same have all too often seen the predictably toxic and venomous response from the evangelical right.” That is a highly partisan and frankly slanderous statement with no basis in reality.
Every member of the Jackson County GOP works daily with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. For example, I have taught Cherokee language for 15 years, at every grade level and for every demographic. My first class of kindergarten students just graduated after attending high schools in both Swain and Jackson counties. These young people (all members of the EBCI) are tenacious, intelligent, and have tremendous integrity. It hurts my soul that some in this community see these wonderful people, of whom I am so proud, primarily by their skin color, and work to use that against them as a tool of division.
When children are told that they should feel like victims or villains based on the color of their skin instead of being judged by the content of their character, those narratives can create lasting damage in their lives. Thomas Sowell says it best: “Racism is not dead but on life support, kept alive by politicians, race hustlers, and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as ‘racist’.” Though I had hoped to never see such tactics used in our own community, I believe that they are being employed only because there is no valid argument to be made against Ms. Lisa Buchanan as a qualified school board candidate.
Despite the continued narrative of racism and religious extremism in Jackson County, the evidence of this boogey man just does not exist. Recent primary elections paint the true picture of our community. Ms. Lisa Buchanan ran alongside two other wonderful women: Kim Moore and Joy Rose. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, Ms. Moore is an African-American woman who has already distinguished herself through service to the school system before ever setting foot in office as an elected school board member.
Each of these women took their personal time to tour schools, meet with administrators and staff, and develop exciting action plans to bring needed change to JCPS. Though Lisa Buchanan and Joy Rose performed exceptionally well in the primary, they did not secure the needed plurality to avoid a run-off. However, Kim Moore won not only a plurality, but also an overwhelming majority. Conservative voters could have easily defeated Ms. Moore on the ballot if the thinly-veiled allegations of racism targeted at the GOP were true; rather, she won a majority of her votes in the biggest conservative strongholds of Jackson County.
Unlike some in our own community, conservative voters of Jackson County do not care about skin color. We simply want the best representation for our children. We knew that new school board candidates, with fresh ideas and new energy, were critical to positively changing the trajectory of our school system. At no time did Ms. Moore’s skin color become relevant to the election.
I believe that the allegations against Ms. Buchanan and the Jackson County GOP are a poorly conceived distraction tactic. I have watched and attended recent school board meetings. I’ve researched the new “Wit and Wisdom” curriculum that was adopted by Jackson County, despite concerns regarding both pedagogy and poorly chosen source materials. I’ve talked to educator colleagues who’ve had to take second jobs to make ends meet. I’ve heard stories of the struggles to fill substitute teacher positions even on the morning when substitutes are needed. Our children are struggling to catch up after a period of online learning that our region was just not equipped to handle. Our teachers don’t receive the support they deserve.
When was the last time the school board publicly fought for significant pay raises for our school staff? How many times did the school board reach out for grant funding for resources that we desperately need? This is the true concern of this election. Because the incumbent was not able to provide trackable benefits to the JCPS school system, there are members of our community who have chosen to muddy the waters of this election to hide those shortcomings by sowing division within our community. Shame on them.
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