If the first step toward solving a problem is the acknowledgment that you have one, then Pittsfield has taken that step in acknowledging the city has done a poor job in recruiting and hiring minorities for city positions. Pittsfield’s affirmative action plan of 1991 was collecting dust on a shelf when NAACP Chapter President Will Singleton asked about it, and it now falls upon the Bianchi administration and city and school officials to wipe off the dust and begin catching up.
Mr. Singleton made a convincing case before the City Council Tuesday night about how city policies in regards to minorities can influence attitudes throughout the community. If a city is perceived as unfriendly to blacks or Hispanics, rightly or wrongly, it will stunt its own growth, socially and economically. Diverse communities are lively, open to change and fresh ideas, and more appealing to the young people Pittsfield definitely needs to keep and attract in the years ahead.
Pittsfield has grown more diverse since 1991, as its minority population has grown, but that is not mirrored in the faces seen in city government or in teaching and administrative positions in the schools. A minority student will certainly feel more comfortable upon seeing someone from his or her ethnic group at the head of the class, and for this to happen, the school system must aggressively recruit minority hires. And if some people "get upset," as Mr. Singleton said about the prospect of affirmative action, then too bad. Affirmative action has worked in this nation and Pittsfield needs to pursue its own version. The schools may be the place to begin.
The revival last year of the city’s Affirmative Action Advisory Committee is an encouraging start, and its revised plan and policy should be aggressive. It’s apparent that the administration and city councilors take seriously the need for increased diversity. This city effort, it is important to remember, will not just benefit African-American, Hispanic and other minority members of the community. It will give a boost to the city, one that will manifest itself in many ways.