Hugh Rouse’s April 9 letter displays a stunning set of assumptions about the purpose and need for the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s hiring of Education Elements to advise on anti-racist practices.
First, Rouse assumes that this decision is the prelude to his feeling of powerlessness when Black students were bussed into his “academic school” and turned it into “an inner-city school” with students wandering the halls, commandeering the library and precipitating nervous breakdowns.
The Black population of Orange County is all of 2%, so it seems unlikely that integration of this kind is on the horizon.
Mr. Rouse also assumes that Laguna Beach students can “recognize racism when they see it,” and therefore have no need for anything new in the curriculum. I disagree.
Here are some facts that LBUSD students might find useful:
• The Hispanic population of Orange County is 34%. In the 1940s, there were segregated “Schools for Mexicans.” All Mexican-American children were required to attend regardless of language fluency. In Mendez et al v. Westminster School District of Orange County, a federal court ruled that separate facilities are inherently unequal and paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education.
• The Asian population of Orange County is 21%. In 1941,120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced out of their homes and businesses and incarcerated for reasons ultimately determined to be based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
• Orange County had one of the nation’s largest branches of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; their focus was not on Blacks but on rooting out Catholics, Jews and Japanese from the County.
• For Native Americans and other people of color, Orange County was a long-time “sundown town” where nonwhites were expected to leave the county before dark.
As to the dire end of Mr. Rouse’s high school, he might want to study the example of another high school English teacher, at another “academic school,” facing another group of multi-racial students.
Over the objections and warnings of judgmental, frightened colleagues and even her principal, Erin Gruwell and her students at Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach turned their years together into the book, The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves. Twenty years later, many of them are still together.
Mr. Rouse used the action of the LBUSD as a “trigger” of his many unexamined thoughts and emotions.
I recommend that we not follow suit.
Kiku Terasaki, Laguna Beach
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