Letter to the Editor
Dear Mr. Henry,
Your report citing Broward County Schoolboard Superintendent Vicki Cartwright telling Black community leaders that she will “not hire anyone because they’re black; they have to be qualified” at first filled me with rage, but now I’ve come to laugh about it. The Superintendent’s words reveal her to be wholly incompetent for her job in a multicultural community operating the sixth largest school district in the country. Her words are overtly racist and profoundly insulting. That she would utter them to community leaders shows a lack of respect that boggles my mind. If it was unintentional, it reveals an unacceptable dearth of social skills that cannot inure to the benefit of our children’s education.
How did an individual so lacking in basic competence come to be the leader of our beloved county’s educational system? The words and attitude hurtle me back to the late 1990s when then-mayor of the City of Fort Lauderdale Robert Cox declared to school children, (paraphrasing) “Anybody can be mayor as long as you are free, white and 21.” The racist expression so roiled the community that Westside Gazette Publisher Levi Henry Jr. responded, (paraphrasing) “You will never hold office again in Broward County.” And he never did.
The Superintendent’s words reveal a mentality that I thought we jettisoned back in the 1990s. In the year 2022 the focus is on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as this is the proven formula for success. To suggest that Black people have an advantage in the American system is to be laughably out of touch, since every Black or Brown person knows that historically, we have been taught to be several times better than the competition, because that’s what it takes just to get in the room.
I feel sad for the employees of the School District who worked hard all year and succeeded, and who may feel disappointed in their leader’s revealed flaws. I wonder about the education my great grandchildren are getting, and the opportunities they’re being prepared for. There are a myriad examples of children of color being dis-encouraged in school and routed into areas requiring less scholarship. By her words the superintendent conveys a lack of respect for Black intellect.
I’m curious how many “qualified” Black professionals the Superintendent has found to date? And how many others who have been hired do not have “black” as a (dis)qualifier? Does she find it necessary to declare to other teachers, “I will not hire you just because you are white?”
If the Superintendent “will not hire someone because they’re Black…they must be qualified” does that extend to the District’s business practices? What percentage of the business done with the district is spent with Black and brown businesses, given that it’s our tax dollars that fill the coffers?
There are more questions than answers. Now that she’s shown her true colors, I hope the community is sufficiently “woke” to act in our own best interest. The future of our children, our educational system and our quality of life depend on it.