An Open Letter to Pittsford

Author’s note, 5/12/2019: For clarity, a link to the PCSD parent’s public FB post claiming responsibility for initiating the report has been added in paragraph 3. The D&C article link has also been added in paragraph 1.  The D&C has updated that article since its original publishing on 4/25/2019.
Author’s note, 5/13/2019: The public FB post has been edited from its original format.
Dear Pittsford families, students, alumni, school administrators, Board of Education, Town Supervisor, Village Trustees, et. al.:
As you no doubt have noticed, the district has been thrust into the spotlight with reports of pervasive racism throughout the district.  There are two specific accounts reported by the D&C in April: a track and field student using the n-word against a black student, and a Black History Month project which featured stories about black inventors but had photographs of white people.
I have confidence in the district’s ability to address racism in all its forms, including these recent events.  The track and field student was appropriately disciplined and the Black History Month project was promptly removed.  They have taken many steps toward both education and action against it. I also sympathize with the limitations of discussing school incidents in public as these events specifically involve minors.
However, I believe the D&C’s report is a mere microcosm of a larger scheme playing out in the village and town. I do not think the timing of this report, initiated by another PCSD parent, is coincidental. This is an election year in Pittsford and I believe the timing of this report was purposefully made to reflect poorly on the current administration(s).
Currently, public appeal to emotion is louder than the appeal to action.  This method of emotional speech is the easiest way to the public’s heart, so to speak – the conviction of emotional parents at April’s BOE meeting was impressionable and moving!  Yet looking past the emotions and into the actions called for, I am extremely concerned.
I had a lively social media discussion with a Pittsford parent about a “White Supremacy and Me” workshop, hosted by the Pittsford PTSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee.  The basis of the workbook was that all white folks are racist and will forever be so; I challenged this premise strongly.  I also viewed the movie “I’m Not Racist, Am I?” when PCSD screened the movie for the public in conjunction with three other districts and found that the exact same premise was given:  White people are racist and cannot be cured of it.  Even further, the movie claimed that POC can never be racist, only bigoted.
Creating villians (whites) and victims (POC) based on skin color or other “boxes” of identity immediately undermines the purpose of true restorative practices, which call on all folks to come together, not separate, in times of pain and suffering.  This manipulation of dividing others plays again to the emotions of all of us, which can cloud judgment and wisdom. I do believe these events within the district were hosted with good intentions, but workbooks and movies such as these are all built on an emotional premise meant to influence public opinion into a false conclusion: That white people are incurably racist and always will be, and communities must take drastic action.
The slow but steady manipulation of public opinion is achieved in many ways, but it is best described as a pyramid scheme.  Laying the foundation means infiltrating multiple levels of local government and authority to influence the public: boards of education, village boards, interfaith communities, locally elected officials and/or candidates, the local TV and newspapers, and within social media.  This has been happening in Pittsford at a troubling and alarming pace.  Eventually, it will touch every aspect of local governments, families, taxpayers, and organizations.
Thus, the manipulation of public opinion continues on until people start to voluntarily give up certain freedoms and decision-making duties within their communities, homes, and families.  They are convinced by others in public power and media that they can’t possibly raise good, non-racist children only because of their skin tone.  So, parents attend these movies and personal exploration workshops, elect those who tell them they need help in raising good global citizens, and allow their children into public schooling at earlier ages and for longer periods of time.  Laws are made, resolutions are passed, and parents gladly adhere to these questionable actions. Parents, local boards of education, and small government officials are slowly taken out of the equation by their own votes.
Eventually, the consolidation of power rides up from the base of true power – you, the community member – and go to locally elected officials who adhere to agendas at the state or federal levels, and enjoy the benefits and money that flow from rich donors or endless state and federal coffers.  This is how Albany allowed the federal government infiltrate local schools with Common Core curriculum and high-stakes tests via Race to the Top money – we eventually found out it was all about money, student data mining, and infiltrating the privacy of our students.
The building of this pyramid scheme can take years, even generations.  Eventually, those in local power are either replaced by figureheads or talking puppets for state and federal governments.  Local citizens’ votes become symbolic. Citizens can’t keep their locally elected officials in check because their loyalties lie elsewhere.  Or, the talk and/or action of consolidating local governments, boards of trustees, police forces, and/or boards of education further shift money and power from local taxpayers, concentrating power into the hands of both elected officials and unelected bureaucrats.
This D&C racism article and its events around it are, in my opinion, another stone in the building of this pyramid scheme.  Once again, the district disciplined the student and removed the project, and have been open to community input for strengthening their disciplinary measures and education around racism. After the elections, the roar will die likely down again. People will forget this incident over summer vacation, and life will continue peacefully once more until another election year rolls around.  Then it will be time for activation again, with another piece of drama blown out of proportion, and the demand in the change for leadership and appeal to higher or consolidated governments to “save” our schools will continue. Parents will be continually told that they cannot possibly keep up with all the educational points about the evolving nature of race, gender, the environment, climate change, sexuality… the list goes on.  Any differing viewpoint will be labeled racist, bigoted, toxic, a conspiracy theory, and/or crazy.
Unfortunately, a pyramid is incredibly difficult to destroy.  It involves dismantling from the top down and inside out, but still takes years of agonizing work.  The foundation for the myriad of different stones – which represent ALL of us, regardless of how we identify ourselves – is kept in place under the weight of all other stones above it.  However, shaking that single first foundation is the key to opening dialogue and keeping parents (taxpayers) and local communities accountable to each other.  This is where the true power of citizens actually lies:  the founders of this country did not call us The United “State” of America.   It is the STATES that keep the balance of power in the hands of its citizens.  It is CITIES that keep the balance of power in the hands of its residents.  It is LOCAL COMMUNITIES that keep the balance of power in the hands of its families and residents. It is the TAXPAYERS that keep the balance of power between parents and boards of education. Once those freedoms are given up – how easy it is! – it is near impossible to get them back.
This is my personal creed when activating in the community:  as a parent, I will not stand down when I am told that my skin color makes me an ineffective voice for change or justice.  I will not stand down when I am told I am racist and my kids are, too, just by virtue of skin color.  I will not stand down when my taxes are raised to keep my kids in school longer.  I will not stand down when state educators tell me that Common Core tests are effective or beneficial.  I will not stand down when my voice is determined to be less important that our leaders’ voices.
I believe the district is working its hardest to listen to every voice, protect every student, and appease every parent.  Unfortunately, the luxury of being one of the best school districts in the nation will not protect the community from this incoming onslaught of power-grabbing organizations capitalizing on these events which were already addressed by the district.  True power lies in the hands of each resident.
Do not worry about being a dissenting voice in your community or at board of education meetings. Is it not that our differences make us stronger, Pittsford?
Rebecca LaDow