Issue of racism addressed at New Kent Board of Supervisors, School Board meetings
Issues of racism looming from 2019 stemming from a note at New Kent High School made its way into both New Kent’s School Board and New Kent’s Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night. But the approach into 2020 is that knowledge and addressing the issue is needed to promote a safe and livable environment for all.
Citizens spoke at New Kent’s School Board meeting referencing the late 2019 incident where an African-American student was handed a note with a racial slur on it. The note gained widespread media and served as a stern reminder that racism is still present in today’s world.
Local comments from African-American leaders in New Kent are looking to resolve and teach about racial sensitivity in the community instead of bashing the one-time offense.
“In 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Green vs. New Kent County School Board ruling,” said Herbert Jones, referencing the freedom of choice and desegregated schools in New Kent County in the late 1960s. “But here we are a year and some change later and we have this issue come up.
“We need to nip this in the butt,” he continued. “I think we need to continue to look at having in-service days of crisis management issues.”
Other comments at the school board meeting included working with the school board to attract minority applicants and teaching racial sensitivity at younger grade levels. For Rev. Milton Hathaway, he is hoping that proactivity and equality for all students will be the focus.
“I don’t believe we have a racist school,” he said. “About 28 years ago, we had a similar issue in our school system. That issue was not simply racism; it was an issue of right versus wrong.
“The school took steps after the issue, but I’m more concerned about going forward,” Hathaway added. “I want to make sure that going forward that every student and staff member, regardless of race, has an equal opportunity to learn and work in the school system.”
At New Kent’s Board of Supervisors meeting, it was newly elected chairwoman Patricia Paige who made her points clear about racism in general.
“I grew up in New Kent County in a segregated New Kent County,” she said. “It is my feeling that no person, regardless of your age, gender, sexual preference, abilities or disabilities, or race, has the right to be bullied, intimidated, or instigated, or tormented because you are not the same.
“I feel that everyone wants to say we are the second fastest growing county [in the Commonwealth of Virginia], why would we also want to be known as a county of racism?” Paige continued. “When we talk about what affects our tourism, businesses, or people coming to our county and school system, nothing would affect it more than that type of label.
“We don’t want to be labeled when we talk about a combat range. We don’t want to be labeled when we talk about the second amendment, but we don’t mind being labeled as being racist?” her monologue continued. “I’m telling you I don’t support those actions and I think I speak on behalf of the board, but right now I’m speaking on behalf of Patricia Paige and I don’t tolerate it.
“There is no tolerance and no place in this county, our county, for racism and it will not be tolerated,” Paige added as she wrapped up her statement. “Don’t bring it to my attention if you don’t want it to be addressed. I don’t care if it’s in the workplace, the schools, or at a public event. It will not be tolerated.”
*Reporter Robb Johnson contributed to this story.*