Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Not in My Backyard: Racism, Athletics, and the Community of Coatesville

[update: since I posted this yesterday there has been significant increase in both local and national media attention, likely due to last night's heated CASD board meeting. Nonetheless, there is so much work to do.]

Maybe it's because some people have already assumed and dismissed Coatesville as a hopeless city whose education system is beyond repair.

Maybe it's because many have grown accustomed to hearing about extortion and corruption through the deviant practicies of this school board's administrators, so we are numb to yet another report.

Maybe it's because Coatesville Area School District is made up of a large populous of low-income minorities whom many still dismiss despite years of "progress" in regards to Civil Rights and racial reconciliation. I wonder what the press would have been like if this happened in a more affluent district?

Maybe it's because many prefer to talk about Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Korea, and China because the injustices exercised in these parts of the world are a safe distance away and do not really affect people we actually know. After all, we can trivialize and politicize these "news stories" because they don't really have much of a personal impact on us.

At least not yet.

But when it comes to the numerous racist, bigoted, and misogynist texts exchanged by the superintendent of the Coatesville Area School District and high school athletic director, not much has been discussed beyond the local borders. When thousands of dollars intended for education are spent on pricey athletic equipment for a team school districts next door compete against [read: wealthier school districts], most are uninformed and naive at best. When students and their teachers of color are lumped together with a single word by these same "leaders" in our community, the same word that generated endless chatter in the media when elicited by a pro football player at a Chesney concert, facebook and twitter streams are not nearly as active.

And I am just as much at fault.

Maybe that's because backyard injustice and hometown hatred is harder to wrap our brains around. It demands more than tweets, blogs, and partisan facebook posts. Instead, when violent rhetoric, unethical spending, and racial slurs we thought were confined to a historical time and place are resurrected and affect our local neighbors, kids' teachers and peers, and the communities we call home, we are held responsible to do more than talk.

And that may come at a cost.

I am not sure what all that has transpired in my community over the past month means for my family and I and how God may be calling us to respond. Our kids are merely two-and-a-half and who knows how long we will live here. But I do know that my neighbor teaches in the public schools, the kids all around us study in the public schools, a few of my youth at the church attend the local high school and compete in related athletic programs, and we pay school taxes.

And racism, hatred, and unethical spending that exploits my neighbors and their kids cannot be tolerated.

We are our brother's and sister's keeper.

Coatesville Area School District deserves better. Residents of Coatesville and surrounding towns can be better. The Coatesville area is where we live and where God has called us to care for the community and all those who dwell within:

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."

Jeremiah 29:7

What about your neighborhood? Where may God be calling you to seek the peace of your community and city?

Let's brainstorm together. Let's live into God's dreams together. May we never forget that the welfare of our neighbors and neighborhoods is directly connected to our own.