GCS Diversity Officer–Part II

UPDATES BELOW…

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This is a continuation of an earlier post.

Monica Walker My campaign had to do a little investigating on who Monica Walker is.

After all, our taxpayer dollars are paying her a hefty salary of $80,000 a year, let’s see if we’re getting our money’s worth, shall we:

The Rhino Times reported back on March 29 of this year that Walker’s position as a diversity officer is a first for Guilford County Schools. See this excerpt:

Walker is not only new to the school system, but her position was just created in the 2006-2007 budget. Walker has never presented the board data at meetings. Walker has attended at least one of the board’s Shared Communications Committee meetings and she has attended a handful of community forums. Other than that, what exactly she does in that position has not been brought forth to the board and she is earning more than $80,000.

Well, fast forward to this past October 11, when the Rhino reported that Walker attended her first GCS Board meeting and her first one that she presented at. Keep in mind that she was hired in August, 2006.

An excerpt from this article:

Attending her first Guilford County Board of Education meeting since she was hired in August 2006, Chief Diversity Officer Monica Walker had no clear explanation as to why she had not been at any previous meetings, but she told board members at the Tuesday, Oct. 9 meeting that she has been very busy.

Walker, who started working for the schools as the head of the Diversity Office when it was created in 2006, told board members what she has been doing during that time.

Part of her job is providing staff development training. Walker said she thinks that diversity officers “have a bad name” and she believes in ongoing training for staff. She said her belief is that training will help close the existing 20 percent achievement gap between white and black students. White students outperformed black students in math and reading by about the same margin in the last two school years – 2006-2007 and 2005-2006.

Walker said much of her time has been spent providing “Undoing Racism” training at Mission Possible schools. Mission Possible, created to lure highly qualified teachers to teach in low-performing schools throughout the county, was developed in spring 2006 and implemented in the fall of 2006. In addition, Walker said there are other schools in the system that have requested similar staff development training.

You’re right, Ms. Walker.

They’re given a bad name if they go around making crazy accusations of people being racist when you’re trying to “undo” racism, as is what occurred when Crossroads Ministries conducted the former Racial Healing workshops a few years ago…you remember those. Those were the ones that explicitly told white teachers that they were racist and blacks, by definition, could not be racist.

See this comment from my friend Stormy, with regards to the previous-related posting on this:

The problem here is that as Diversity Officer of GCS, she has authority to spread and teach this tripe, and people are required to listen to her. Of course, this is not as offensive and damaging as the Racial Healing workshops that GCS required of some teachers conducted by Crossroads Ministries a few years ago. In those, they were telling white teachers that they were racists because they were white. As a matter of fact, they said that all white people are racists, and black people by definition can not be racist. And, for that, taxpayers paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Crossroads Ministries has been mentioned on this blog previously. Back up for a minute for context…

Stormy is referring to those controversial racial healing workshops that Supt. Terry Grier spent your hard-earned taxpayer money on a couple of years ago to introduce to our new Mission (im)Possible teachers.

These are the same racial healing workshops that are run jointly by Chicago-based Crossroads Ministry and the New Orleans-based People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB).

And guess who was a former trainer for PISAB?

Monica Walker Yep…Monica Walker. Matter of fact, if you Google Ms. Walker, you’ll see she is listed as part of the executive summary of the final report from the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Walker is also listed on a site titled “Anti-Racist Alliance“. I brought up this site because this portion of this particular homepage is troubling:

This website is designed for individuals, educators, activists and trainers who are interested in participating a national movement for racial justice. . This is a curriculum designed to create change! By entering the curriculum on whiteness you will begin a journey into what it means to be white in America, the consequences of whiteness for people of color and reparations in the form of federal government initiatives to end disproportionality and poverty, the ultimate impact for racial equity

She’s listed on this site as one of many folks peddling a $15 DVD on Internalizing Racial Oppression on behalf of PISAB.

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But back to the latest Rhino Times article…and here’s another excerpt:

On Nov. 13, Walker said the diversity office is encouraging high schools and middle schools to consider participating in the nationally sponsored Mix It Up at Lunch Day.

According to Walker, “Mix it up is a nationwide campaign that supports students who want to identify, question and cross social boundaries that separate them from each other and help build inclusive welcoming learning environments. In 2006, an estimated four million students in more than 10,000 schools participated in Mix It Up at Lunch Day.

The lunchroom, Walker said, is the clearest “indicator of racial and cultural divide.”

Walker said the diversity office wants to encourage kids to “think differently” and “sit with someone new.”

This is almost contradictory to an excerpt from her Nov. 11 talk at the Central Library in downtown Greensboro…as reported in the latest Carolina Peacemaker:

Using her training skills Walker asked the audience to write down five words: remember, reconcile, reconnect, rebuild and redefine. She then connected each word to her main theme. Walker said, “Your ethnicity connects you to your community. It is so important to connect with our ethnicity.”

She moved about the room and asked people, “What is your ethnicity.” The answers, of course, varied. She explained to those who said, American, that the country of one’s birth is their nationality, not ethnicity. She noted that race is a political description. She said that ethnicity is the traditions that have been passed on to one from their ancestors. She said to remember these traditions is important.
“We all have a lot to reconcile.” She said. She added, “We have to reconnect with that that made us very human.”

Yes, traditions ARE important, and as a 36-year-old black father of one here in America, I have deep respect for my heritage and culture, but you mean to tell me that things that are uniquely American are excluded from this? And out of the same mouth, you’re telling and encouraging children to sit with someone new at the cafeteria table?

I’m confused…someone help me here. It is confusing to others too…see this comment from my friend Matthew Tabor from Cooperstown, NY:

What Walker is peddling here is an absolute load of tripe.

“She explained to those who said, American, that the country of one’s birth is their nationality, not ethnicity.”

Followed by:

“She said that ethnicity is the traditions that have been passed on to one from their ancestors.”

That Walker doesn’t seem to think that there are uniquely-American traditions is not only troubling, but shows a serious misunderstanding of the populations she’s supposedly trying to bring together. I’d be happy to spend 5 minutes with Walker in front of the magazine rack at any bookstore and bring her up to speed on American culture, which parts were unique and why.

Then I’d explain to her how her positions as an anti-racism and public school district diversity officer are uniquely American.

“She noted that race is a political description.”

I’d be interested in Walker’s thoughts on how those who carry sickle cell disease alleles ought to categorize that as “political.”

Walker’s bizarre relativism is one thing; the inability she demonstrated in this piece to maintain logic and sense within that flawed stance is another.

“Always directing her talk toward racism, Walker said that one’s external constructions are what someone else had created. “Some of us need to redefine ourselves.””

Hopefully – though it is unlikely – Ms. Walker will realize that not everything in society is grounded in racism. That, along with a hefty dose of real understanding of race/culture/ethnicity, might help her “begin to connect” to others.

Until then, Walker will continue to have all the authority of a third-rate freshman in a Sociology 101 class.

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A few other things…Walker is also a former trainer with the Greensboro-based Partnership Project, which on its website pledges to accomplish this through:

  • Educating people about the origin and destructive consequences of racism.
  • Organizing people to develop strategies to undo racism.
  • Supporting people to heal from the damaging effects of racial oppression.

Walker’s Nov. 11 talk was also listed on the Peace & Justice Network of the Triad blog site/bulletin board.

Now Walker also previously taught in the justice and policy studies program at Guilford College, which ironically and coincidentally just sponsored a symposium four days ago on “Understanding ‘White’ Privilege in Education.”

I can’t make this stuff up, people.

Look, I’m not attacking Ms. Walker, I’m sure she’s a very nice lady. And her role is a unique one over at GCS. And the role of a diversity officer is needed, especially here in the Peoples Republic of Guilford County.

But the role of the diversity officer should be non-judgmental and non-biased. For $80,000 a year, I’m not so sure that’s what we’re getting here.

A final Rhino Times excerpt:

Board members didn’t have many questions for Walker, just a lot of thank yous for the work she is doing. Chairman Alan Duncan said he would like to “see you more often from here on out.”

To which, Walker said, “That’s OK. You don’t have to.”

Superintendent Terry Grier said Walker has one person helping her in her department and that he thought Walker was “carrying a big load.” The support staff that Grier wanted to go along with Walker’s department was cut in the 2007-2008 budget.

“She is doing a marvelous job,” Grier said, about Walker working with various departments.

…if you all think so…

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UPDATE: 11/19/07, 11:46AM:

Found some more stuff here on Monica Walker while doing some additional research. I report, you decide.

1. go to this link, Walker was co-consulted for an article, titled “Beyond Diversity & Multiculturalism: Towards the Development of Anti-Racist Institutions and Leaders” found in the Journal for Nonprofit Management.

2. She was listed as a keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers’ Pennsylvania Chapter in her previous position prior to GCS. See this excerpt from “The New Social Worker Online”:


When social workers are already in the field, there are conferences and other educational programs aside from the Undoing Racism workshops they can take advantage of to try to understand racism and their own responses better. Next spring, NASW-PA will be sponsoring such a conference entirely devoted to undoing racism. The keynote speaker will be Monica Walker, a trainer for the People’s Institute and visiting professor at Guilford University in Greensboro, N.C.

The emphasis for social work education and the profession has to be not an anthropological one explaining differences, but an “openness to difference,” Melendez of Simmons adds. “We have to be able to bear witness to someone else’s pain without being defensive, like when a client told me the history of violence against her by men, and I’m a man.” “I’m an optimist by nature,” says Lassiter of Black Men at Penn. “But I think we can never eradicate racism. We can educate ourselves about the inequities. Social workers can play a primary role and look at the structural inequalities. The purpose of social work is to enhance social functioning, remediate social ills, and alleviate oppression. I don’t think you can change the world, but you can change one person at a time.”

Moreover, says Lassiter, social workers have an obligation because their profession is “genuinely a calling. Special persons do this.”

The battle against racism has to go beyond the classroom, these experts agreed, whether through workshops, discussion groups, or political action. “This is a profession that’s 80 percent white treating 80 percent people of color or in poverty, mostly black,” says Starks. “We have to do political things to change racism. Social workers need a commitment and a passion for social justice and equality for all people.”

3. She was listed as a speaker in a January 2003 Dr. King celebration at Guilford College (click here to read the full press release). A snippet:

The image “https://i0.wp.com/www.guilford.edu/images/newsevents/walker.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Monica Walker, a trainer with the Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, will be the featured speaker at a 7 p.m. program in Dana Auditorium Jan. 20. Walker is a teacher, orator, playwright and organizer of women’s groups and grassroots communities. She is a resource specialist with the Department of Women’s Ministry and the Women’s Ministry Sisterhood Training Project at the St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn.

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UPDATE: 11/20/07, MIDNITE: Two other blog sites picked up on this as this story has gained major traction within the last 48 hours.

1. Greensboro Politics (with comments). Click here.

2.  My friend Matthew Tabor from Cooperstown, NY did some digging around on his own, and has some additional background to throw in with regards to diversity officers in schools. Click here.

E.C. 🙂

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4 Responses

  1. Speechless…………….

  2. In my opinion, she is the last person that should hold the position of GCS Diversity Officer. Every thing I have just read seems to indicate Ms. Walker would be making the situation so much worse. I just don’t understand the school board and their decision to spend $80,000.00 for this person to do the job of GCS Diversity Officer. Another example of wasteful spending by the school board and our esteemed Superintendent Grier.

  3. The intent of the position is noble, I’m not faulting that. And in a county such as ours, it is probably needed.

    But I’m troubled and concerned about the person behind the position, and how much you and I are shelling out for this. This position, if it continues to exist, can be done with half the salary, by someone who is non-judgmental and non-biased. I’m not attacking Ms. Walker, I want to make that clear. But researching her talks came very easy…and once again, this is an example of when you have someone in a position of power that has a direct effect on children and educators, I would want that person to be noble ambassador of this school system…I’m not so convinced that Walker is that ambassador.

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