A West Michigan school district is grappling with public blowback after a recently adopted resolution called for promoting the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement to combat “institutionalized racism in our schools and community.”
The resolution introduced this summer by Mona Shores Public Schools trustee Wesley Wilson, a recent college student and Democrat activist, specifically references the Black Lives Matter movement and alleges “Mona Shores’ growth as a predominantly white school district occurred as a result of endemic racist housing policies, restrictive covenants, and intentional urban planning that prevented people of color from even entering white spaces, let alone establishing themselves in the city in any permanent way.”
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“Mona Shores seeks to address institutionalized racism in our schools and community, and in the future offer spaces for dialogue among staff by supporting and facilitating professional development work related to race and other challenging topics,” the resolution reads.
The document, approved unanimously by the board during a virtual meeting amid the coronavirus pandemic in late June, does not provide any evidence of the community’s allegedly racist past or “institutionalized racism in our schools and community.” Instead it states “the killing of unarmed Black men and women has left young people searching for answers to incredibly complicated and infuriating questions.”
“Right now that means affirming that we are committed to the emotional and physical safety of Black students. It means our schools and classrooms must be safe spaces for dialogue and support on the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement,” Wilson wrote.
The resolution argues that fighting for social justice for black Americans will benefit all students.
“Right now, it is especially important for Black students to know that we value them,” the resolution reads.
The document concludes with a list of promises and priorities that include “hiring a more diverse group” of staff, teachers and administrators; district-wide staff training on “restorative justice” techniques; and an expanded role of the district’s Culture and Diversity Committee in curriculum and other matters.
Mona Shores schools will “continue to create a curriculum that is diverse and intentionally anti-racist that includes but is not limited to issues and events in Black history and Black culture such as Jim Crow laws, segregation, the creation of jazz and hip-hop, Juneteenth, Tulsa Massacre, redlining and the failures of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the whitewashing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., code-switching, achievements in media and culture, and other historic events and racist crimes in American history.”
Those lessons must include “discussions of biases, racial micro-aggressions, school-wide data on race and disciple, fears, cultural ignorance, and stereotypes of Black youth.”
The resolution generated heated discussions online and at recent board meetings, where some have also raised concerns with the resolution’s author. Wesley was convicted of larceny for stealing from a public university in 2018 while serving on the school board, and for that reason and the BLM proposal, many locals want him gone.
While the Mona Shores School Board kept Wilson’s conviction from the public for over two years, his fellow trustees are now demanding his resignation. Wilson has refused, and the board is now petitioning Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to remove him, which is unprecedented in Michigan.
Board president Stan Miller said officials are preparing the petition for Whitmer now and plan to vet the request with the district’s legal counsel before it becomes official. In the meantime, he’s defending the Black Lives Matter resolution and his colleague.
“What I can tell you is that no one from the community had any interest in this or any knowledge until Mr. Wilson drafted the Black Lives Matter resolution,” he said. “Suddenly, his past has been dredged up in personal attacks against him.”
Miller said “we never accused Norton Shores of anything. It cites historical practices that are proven.
“There’s absolutely no question the racist housing policies” played into the community’s demographic, he said. Norton Shores is slightly whiter than the state overall at about 90 percent.
Norton Shores city councilman Dan Olson raised questions about Wesley’s troubles with the law at a recent school board meeting, but was muted during the virtual session by Miller. Olson and many others have questioned the claims of racism in the BLM resolution, but Miller said the board stands behind the document.
“We have had no conversations about amending or revising that document,” he said, “but changes are always possible.”
Olson invited Miller to discuss the allegations against the city in the document at a recent work session, but Miller declined.
“When you’re calling the community I represent racist, I want to see what your evidence is,” Olson said. “He owes the voters of this community some answers.”
The questions involve both the allegations in the BLM document and the board’s decision to shield Wilson’s legal troubles from taxpayers.
“He should have resigned two years ago and should resign now,” Olson said of Wilson. “Accept responsibility and move on.”
Many commenting on the situation in the media and online seem to support efforts to address any kind of racism, but point out the Black Lives Matter movement espouses a socialist ideology to fight racism that’s unacceptable.
“BLM is a political organization,” Norton Shores resident Michael Poland told MLive. “I feel it is wrong to bring such politics into the board. I agree that schools should practice equality, and that Mona Shores should be committed to the emotional and physical safety of all students.”
While the BLM resolution has effectively split the community, with folks arguing both for and against the proposal at recent board meetings, it’s clear many locals are unfamiliar with the group’s goals and tactics.
The national BLM movement is firmly aligned with the country’s Democratic party and espouses far left positions, including efforts to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure,” “freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking,” with members committed to “do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege,” according to the official Black Lives Matter website.
The BLM movement is also largely funded by liberal groups, as documented by the Capitol Research Center in June.
Disturbing videos of comments made by Black Lives Matter leaders at numerous recent protests illustrate the mindset of the movement, and serve as examples of why folks in Norton Shores are apprehensive about supporting the local BLM resolution.
“This is war guys, we’re getting ready to get armored up around here,” activist Letha Winston screamed to supporters during a protest on Sunday in Portland, Oregon.
Winston railed against “filthy, disgusting animal” police who stop black drivers, alleging racist motivations in all instances. She hopes they “go to hell,” along with other police involved in deadly shootings.
“They need to hang you high. … they need to send you to the electric chair and let you fry like a piece of burnt bacon,” she said, according to the New York Post.
“I know you got a gun, but so do I … Go ahead and shoot me — I’m shooting back,” said Winston, whose son was killed by police when he charged officers with a gun after shooting two people in 2018. “We’re here to take our streets back.”
Last week, it was Chicago Black Lives Matter leaders making headlines.
According to the Chicago Tribune:
Hours after a horde of people descended on the Loop to pillage expensive handbags, jewelry, clothes and other items from mostly high-end stores, BLM Chicago held a solidarity rally outside the police station to support those who had been arrested.
The small group of demonstrators, mostly African American and white young adults, carried a banner that said, “Our Futures Have Been Looted From Us … LOOT BACK.”
“I don’t care if somebody decides to loot a Gucci or a Macy’s or a Nike store because that makes sure that person eats. That makes sure that person has clothes. That is reparations,” one local BLM leader explained at the rally. “Anything they want to take, take it because these businesses have insurance.”