GCS Diversity Officer–Part III

Monica Walker Back in mid-November, I went back to my old journalism roots and did some investigating of just who the real Monica Walker is. She’s not just the GCS Diversity Officer, she’s a person that (with all due respect) has some questionable viewpoints and troubling connections with past groups she has worked with.

(Here are the links to those past stories…click here and here. My friend Matthew Tabor from Cooperstown, NY did a companion investigative post on his website…click here.)

Today’s News & Record has a “10-Plus” featuring Walker. Considering I didn’t open up my Sunday paper until 5pm today (and this is a rare Sunday post for me), I want to thank my friend “Stormy” for urgently bringing this to my attention…she wrote in a few hours ago and said:

Erik, will you provide some interpretation for us as to what Monica Walker is saying in her 10 Plus interview in the N&R today? It sounds like a bunch of double talk to me. The N&R is full of it today (so to speak).

So here it is, in its entirety, then I’ll provide some comment and analysis:

N&R: Monica Walker still recalls how her mother, a career postal worker, reacted when she heard someone died within a 10-block radius of their home in Mobile, Ala. Walker’s mom walked door to door, with an envelope in her hand, collecting money to help her neighbors bury their dead. That timeless lesson about human dignity — and the need to remember — stuck. Walker has spent 30 years working in various jobs that dealt with social justice. Today, at age 49, after teaching community-building classes at Guilford College, she now serves as the first diversity officer for Guilford County Schools. Walker talks with columnist Jeri Rowe about her job, her thoughts on Greensboro’s division and her idea of how the city can move toward some sort of reconciliation.

Q. You work in a school system with more than 100 languages. As diversity officer, what is your role with the school system?

A. It’s helping people understand the complexity of teaching and learning created by multiple cultures. It is a challenge and an incredible asset, and part of what I want to do is help people understand and value those cultural differences in order to learn from them.

Q. How does that multicultural stew affect Greensboro?

A. In business, people talk about a global economy and going out and bringing the world to your door. Greensboro is a really, really good example of that. It is who we are as a city. But it’s very difficult to get beyond that cultural discussion about black and white. Greensboro still struggles with the black-and-white divisions even to open the door to understanding the other cultures here.

Q. How do you open that door?

A. I often hear from many other cultures that are present here, how they struggle with the way we talk about race. We talk about it in only black-and-white terms. We struggle because we have never come to terms with some of the divide, of what it means to be black and white in this society.

Q. So, how do you come to terms with that?

A. Understanding our history. It’s the telling of stories. We can’t get to the future without explaining the past. Talking about the past doesn’t have to be painful. It can render some clarity and some understanding about mistakes that were made.
But often, it’s an incredible undertaking for us to revisit the past and our mistakes. It’s fearful for some. Even traumatic.
It requires ownership of experiences that don’t make us feel good about ourselves. In order to get to the best of who we are, we have to struggle with those moments that don’t make us feel good. We have to revisit those wounds. It’s the same struggle for us as a city as an individual.

Q. How do we as a city move beyond that struggle?

A. In re-evaluation counseling, you hear about the more we talk about the story, the less of a charge it has. That’s what’s done with alcoholics and drug addicts. When the charge lessens, you are able to grab hold of the possibilities and think, “Oh, that’s what it’s all about. This is how I move forward.” In this case, it’s how we can move forward.

Q. You talk about these divisions — the problems of trust you’ve seen in Greensboro — and you liken them to cancer. Why?

A. These divisions erode the body. There is a sickness in the body, and our job is to fight the illness. Doctors say the body has everything within itself to help heal itself, and metaphorically speaking, we as a society have everything in this body — and in this city — to heal ourselves.

Q. How can Greensboro heal?

A. It may sound too simple for people, but I believe it’s in the knowledge of the ways in which we come together and share in the knowledge of our unity and look at how — and when — a breach in trust occurred. We all can provide a perspective of when and where we felt harmed. It’s that communication that can open up that dialogue.
The goal is to get awareness. That is the door to change.

Q. After coming together, what needs to happen next?

A. We start to do deeper analysis, looking at ways to achieve equity and come up with a common vision for what we want this city to look like, feel like, act like. Then, we’re constantly in the process of always evaluating each step to create that vision and take necessary action.

Q. It reminds me of the charm bracelet on your right wrist, the one you wear for a friend who has breast cancer. The charms have one-word messages like “heal,” “trust” and “accept.”

A. One of the charms on the bracelet talks about love, and in this instance, it’s a manifestation of trust. We have to move to a point of how we can trust. Like in our history (in Greensboro), there was trust. Then, this happened to breach that trust, and now here’s how we can set on that path of reconciliation, of restoration.

Q. It sounds so easy. Why is it so hard?

A. Sometimes, we fear our own ability to communicate. It’s like that when I deal with children or conflict. Sometimes, we say some things that we know will hurt and don’t feel good and wonder about the reconciliation. We need to put the truth out there.
Now, you have to be careful. You can’t tell everyone the truth — boom, boom, boom. There is an art to sharing those truths and moving through the process and finding a measured way that makes sense to get to the whole story. You know what I mean?

Q. Yes. But can this happen here in Greensboro?

A. I know it can happen. Yes, there will be setbacks and moments where we’ll feel heavy with the challenges. But I’m optimistic because I truly believe we have it within ourselves, everything we need, to fix this.

Q. How hard would it be to take some time out of the day to do some anti-racism workshops to improve the awareness of racism in our schools?
— Moriah Girley,
senior at Northeast High School

A. She implies something that is needed, and I would affirm that it is essential. Here is the problem: In a typical school day — here in Guilford County or across the country — that has never been part of the instructional day. Our Department of Instruction does not factor it as a priority. It’s a wonderful idea, though, and it’s wonderful to hear that a young person even recognizes that as a need.
Even our children are sensitive to the issue — or the lack thereof — of cultural awareness.

*****************************

I’m afraid Stormy is right…there is a lot of doublespeak here. It is so thick, you have to slice it with a chainsaw. Let’s break this down, examining some of her answers:

Q. How does that multicultural stew affect Greensboro?

A. In business, people talk about a global economy and going out and bringing the world to your door. Greensboro is a really, really good example of that. It is who we are as a city. But it’s very difficult to get beyond that cultural discussion about black and white. Greensboro still struggles with the black-and-white divisions even to open the door to understanding the other cultures here.

It is difficult to get beyond it because we have elected officials who seek to constantly discuss it, throw it in our faces when we’re least expecting it, and you expect us to respond. That’s race-baiting. Everything is too black and white in this county, and I’ve said it before, this will hold us back economically if it continues. I’m not denying racism and discrimination doesn’t exist, and the position of a GCS diversity officer is welcomed and needed, but there are many in this county who firmly believe it is time to see things beyond color, race and things black and white.

Q. How do you open that door?

A. I often hear from many other cultures that are present here, how they struggle with the way we talk about race. We talk about it in only black-and-white terms. We struggle because we have never come to terms with some of the divide, of what it means to be black and white in this society.

How about those from your own culture, Monica? And I’m sorry, but I think there are some out there who understand “the divide” and who understand black and white. Maybe there are some out there who want to be united, not divided. I’m about unity, not division. I’m about progressing into the future, not being stuck in the past.

*******************

Q. So, how do you come to terms with that?

A. Understanding our history. It’s the telling of stories. We can’t get to the future without explaining the past. Talking about the past doesn’t have to be painful. It can render some clarity and some understanding about mistakes that were made.
But often, it’s an incredible undertaking for us to revisit the past and our mistakes. It’s fearful for some. Even traumatic.
It requires ownership of experiences that don’t make us feel good about ourselves. In order to get to the best of who we are, we have to struggle with those moments that don’t make us feel good. We have to revisit those wounds. It’s the same struggle for us as a city as an individual.

We can’t get to the future without explaining the past, she says.
I may be 36, but I think I know a little bit about the past. I recognize it as a person, as a father, as a teacher, as a human being. Why do I have to revisit those wounds? I’d rather smile at what the future will bring instead of revisiting how ugly the past was.

***************************

The next three questions/answers are all double-speak:

Q. You talk about these divisions — the problems of trust you’ve seen in Greensboro — and you liken them to cancer. Why?

A. These divisions erode the body. There is a sickness in the body, and our job is to fight the illness. Doctors say the body has everything within itself to help heal itself, and metaphorically speaking, we as a society have everything in this body — and in this city — to heal ourselves.

Q. How can Greensboro heal?

A. It may sound too simple for people, but I believe it’s in the knowledge of the ways in which we come together and share in the knowledge of our unity and look at how — and when — a breach in trust occurred. We all can provide a perspective of when and where we felt harmed. It’s that communication that can open up that dialogue.
The goal is to get awareness. That is the door to change.

Q. After coming together, what needs to happen next?

A. We start to do deeper analysis, looking at ways to achieve equity and come up with a common vision for what we want this city to look like, feel like, act like. Then, we’re constantly in the process of always evaluating each step to create that vision and take necessary action.

We seem to keep talking…about the same things. I want to know how you at GCS will educate my child, and will ensure she is educated from her current second grade year at Pilot Elementary through her high school years.

*******************

Q. It sounds so easy. Why is it so hard?

A. Sometimes, we fear our own ability to communicate. It’s like that when I deal with children or conflict. Sometimes, we say some things that we know will hurt and don’t feel good and wonder about the reconciliation. We need to put the truth out there.
Now, you have to be careful. You can’t tell everyone the truth — boom, boom, boom. There is an art to sharing those truths and moving through the process and finding a measured way that makes sense to get to the whole story. You know what I mean?

Boom boom boom? As someone who makes $80,000 a year, is this an appropriate analogy? More double-speak…

Q. Yes. But can this happen here in Greensboro?

A. I know it can happen. Yes, there will be setbacks and moments where we’ll feel heavy with the challenges. But I’m optimistic because I truly believe we have it within ourselves, everything we need, to fix this.

We do. Elect people to our boards who don’t have blinders on, who don’t race-bait, who are forward-thinking and who truly want to do what’s best for the citizens, taxpayers and in the case of our school board…the children.

***************

Q. How hard would it be to take some time out of the day to do some anti-racism workshops to improve the awareness of racism in our schools?
— Moriah Girley,
senior at Northeast High School

A. She implies something that is needed, and I would affirm that it is essential. Here is the problem: In a typical school day — here in Guilford County or across the country — that has never been part of the instructional day. Our Department of Instruction does not factor it as a priority. It’s a wonderful idea, though, and it’s wonderful to hear that a young person even recognizes that as a need.
Even our children are sensitive to the issue — or the lack thereof — of cultural awareness.

Only if it is conducted in a non-biased, nonjudgmental nature. But you can do the research on your own, and that’s not what Monica Walker is about.

I’m actually a little disappointed in the N&R. The investigative posts I did on Walker were the highest read posts on this blog for about two weeks. The N&R had a golden opportunity to ask tough questions about her past connections to previous groups she has had questionable affiliations with and they didn’t. Let me clarify…disappointed, but not surprised.

As I said before, Walker is probably a very nice lady, I just think the role of her job needs to be non-biased and it is very clear that Walker holds certain viewpoints that are questionable for the role of this position. That’s all.

Prove me wrong and I’ll shut up.

E.C. 🙂

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