Letter: Still stuck a century later
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People did not arrive in 2014 to Berkshire County. The NAACP has been educating us and helping us all since 1909. W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the founding members. He was born in Great Barrington. W.E.B. Du Bois’ accomplishments speak for themselves. Nevertheless, the struggle for equality of rights continues.
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. I am the current president of the Berkshire branch of the NAACP. The Berkshire branch encompasses a membership from North Adams to Ashley Falls. This branch is indeed a countywide effort made up of members who are actively engaged in the leadership team and committees.
Last summer, members of the NAACP and the city’s leadership sat down to discuss the lack of diversity in City Hall. During multiple meetings, it was requested that the city of Pittsfield educate the organization about the city’s policy and procedures for effecting a level playing field of explicit fair hiring practices for engaging community members of difference. The Berkshire branch of the NAACP provided several resources for use in outreach and recruitment of candidates from all backgrounds. And the city of Pittsfield as of the writing of this statement has yet to adopt a policy and explicit procedures for the hiring of community members of difference.
"Blazin’ guns" -- in reference to Brian Sullivan’s column of March 13 -- are not needed when you have knowledge. The city of Pittsfield is currently signing on the dotted line with state and federal funding agencies and conveying to them that the city is working toward diversifying the workforce. How could that be? There is no adopted policy for the implementation of the plan.
The Pittsfield Public school system has made an effort to understand the need of diversity in our school staff/administration; however, the effort has fallen short. Local, regional, and national candidates of color applying for teaching positions have not been receiving an interview or even a callback indicating that their materials have been received and are being reviewed. In effect, this is a rejection, just not a rejection in writing.
Without adoption and implementation of an explicitly developed and updated Affirmative Action Policy, along with explicit procedures for making sure that the necessary information is purposefully provided to people with differences, and for making sure that objective hiring practices are used, the "right" person will almost always be the "white" person. Initially, what is said here may sound harsh, but consider opening up your cultural lens in order to learn about how local power structures are allied in opposition to bringing about diversity; that is explicit and effective opportunities for everybody, as well as the actual hiring of people who have been and continue to be discriminated against.
Where do you see community members of color? Not in salaried-employee positions, management, or administration. Are they in positions to grow, or are they forced to go elsewhere to survive and thrive economically? Our community’s culture has shifted. We have a diverse group of taxpayers throughout the county. The question of the day should be: Who is missing from our board rooms and classrooms that have the competencies and qualifications to do the tasks? We will never know unless we the citizens -- for we the citizens are the government-- adopt a policy to create equality and implement inclusion as a daily practice.
Will Singleton is writing for the Executive and Communications Committees of the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP, of which he is president.
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