Fresno Leader Decries Hiring Of White Teacher To Teach Ethnic Studies Course

| by Jonathan Wolfe

A vocal group of leaders in the Southwest Fresno, California community are upset about a recent hiring by the Fresno Unified School District.

The newly-constructed Rutherford B. Gaston Middle School is set to open this fall, and the school will have an African-American, Latino, and Southeast Asian studies course available for students. The district hired Peter Beck, a white teacher with over 12 years experience teaching African-American and Latino cultural studies to lead the course. 

The majority of residents in the Fresno community haven’t spoken out against the hiring, but a small group led by Rev. Karen Crozier has. The Fresno Bee reports that Crozier and supporters are urging the school district to hire someone who more closely reflects the ethnic background of students at the school.

"We're just saying what the community wants. We didn't fight for a white male or female teacher to educate our babies," Crozier said. "We still are at these racial fault lines, and we want someone who will be able to think critically about those racial fault lines and how do we help heal, to restore the problems that have existed."

Here is video of Crozier speaking to a small gathering of residents on the issue:

The latest numbers show that 3% of teachers in the district are African-American, 22% are Hispanic, 64% are Caucasian, and 8% are Asian.  The student body, meanwhile, is 9% African-American, 65% Hispanic, 11% Caucasian, and 11% Asian.

The school district is aware of the complaints from some members of the community. District spokesperson Micheline Golden says Beck was the best-qualified person for the job.

"We are always looking at the best, most experienced, most qualified who can provide the best education for our young people," she said.

District trustee Cal Johnson echoed those sentiments.

"I do not believe colorism trumps qualifications," he said. "I don't care whether it's white, whether it's black, brown or yellow."