Supts eNews - Nov 3, 2020 - Thoughts on Vandalism

Thoughts on weekend vandalism

Dr Ayinde RudolphFrom Dr. Ayindé Rudolph, Superintendent

Dear Parents,

One of the challenges with dealing with racism, bigotry or discrimination is the uncomfortable feeling of trying to explain how it makes you feel.  The discomfort that comes with the apologies. Listening to the false equivalencies. The angst in wondering if you are going to offend others by delving into the conversation.  You spend time questioning whether bringing up your feelings even matters.  Often after dredging through the emotional abyss, you are hopeful that the conversation will change the behavior of others.  But in reality you feel alone.  You suffer in silence, or in silos with your family.  You want to feel the anger, you want to scream at the top of your lungs, but everywhere you turn you struggle to find someone who can truly empathize with you.  And it is that moment that one realizes that while some things change, most things stay the same.  Unfortunately, when it comes to racism, bigotry and discrimination, that seems to be the case.

Less than a week ago, close to 100 people listened to a discussion around race and policing in our schools.  It was a great conversation.  While the size of the audience was nowhere close to where it needed to be, it was a great start that left everyone hopeful that we could continue to move the dial.  Each of the participants remarked about how different Mountain View was.  How we are a bubble within a bubble and fortunate to be isolated from overt racism.  That is until Sunday.

Sunday morning, less than three days after having a productive discussion about the tension between African American and police, I see a message that two of our schools were vandalized; the fourth incident over the past month, with racial epithets. Less than 72 hours after sending a message to affirm to the community that regardless of who wins the election we will continue to move forward, someone smeared libelous comments towards Vice President Biden on our school buildings.  In a city where African Americans account for approximately two percent of the population, “I hate N——-s” was spray painted on a school mural, a white supremicist frog icon and a crude picture of how big African American’s noses were put on the side of portable. This is not the first time that someone has sprayed Huff Elementary or Graham Middle School with hateful and vulgar tagging.  There is no denying that the timing of the vandalism, the talk about race and my message about the election are all related.

We live in a time of intense partisanship.  Over the past decade our disenfranchisement, fueled by our social media echo chambers, has brought out the worst in society.  The pandemic has forced us to not only long for some resemblance of our pre-COVID life, but also to look at the past with rose-colored glasses.  We spend more time complaining about access to fields, the height of fences while our brethren struggle to keep a roof over their heads.  We label each other as extremist, instead of taking the time to engage in productive problem-solving discourse.  

Our community is hurting and is tired.  I am hurting and tired. I am tired of my hiring being considered an “unprecedented move.”  I am tired of seeing the surprise “that Mountain View hired an African American superintendent.”  Yes, my race defines my experience in life.  So does my height, my education and my experiences.  My kids define who I am.   And yet it is comments like these, the false equivalency that is leveled, the use of code words,  the public incidents that have been previously documented, coupled with what took place this weekend at our school that shows that Mountain View still has room for improvement.  Even in Mountain View, a community that “embraces diversity,” there is only so much that some of us can stomach.  

So here is my message to students or adults who felt it was necessary to vandalize a school.  Your actions are deplorable and have no place in our community.  We will work with the police to find you, and we will use whatever legal remedy to help you to realize that your actions are illegal and violate the social mores of our community.   More importantly, I will not be dissuaded from using this platform to address issues that are facing us all. Your actions only help me to see that I, as well as our school district, have a moral obligation to address the needs of all, not just the majority.

I became a teacher because I believe that discrimination, bigotry and racism (even if it is veiled), have no place in any corner of our community.  I became an educator to help all those whom I encountered reach their fullest potential.  I entered this profession to help create intentional discourse that helps us attain the altruistic goals of our nation.  Just as I expect every kid to receive the same level of education that I would want for my own children, I hope that all residents of Mountain View will come to see that no one deserves to come to work and experience discrimination, bigotry or to be exposed to the musings of a racist.  

I want to close with this final thought.  To those who have acted out in a vitriolic manner, your actions will not dissuade my belief in our great city.  Instead, you have helped the citizens of our community to see that Mountain View is not immune to this type of hatred.  Your behavior helps us to band together to stamp out racism.  I know, through the actions of many, that Mountain View has a firm commitment to equity for every person, regardless of physical appearances.  I can see what tomorrow will bring and that emboldens my faith in the citizens of Mountain View.  We will use this opportunity to talk with our children.  We will find ways to help our neighbors heal and feel more welcomed.  Most importantly, we will do everything within our power to remove this type of hatred from our community.  We are Mountain View, and despite your divisive tactics, we are Better Together.
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