I was distressed to read “Regeneron Co-Founder, YHS Superintendent Apologize After Grad Speech,” written by Brian Marschhauser, from the July 2 edition of Yorktown News. YHS had invited a local pharmaceutical executive as a keynote speaker. Expected to speak about COVID-19, the speaker delivered a rant against Black Lives Matter or police reform. He bullied those who did not agree. The rant was racially hostile at a public school, un-researched before an academic audience, and delivered where bullying is purportedly not tolerated. The district needs to make this right. The district must respond with a denouncement of racism and bullying, and support for academic rigorousness and character by correcting the mistake of allowing that speech.
The speaker said police violence on people of color is rare. He gave data that were inaccurate-without citations. He should have stated that Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. (See mappingpoliceviolence.org).
The speaker took calls for police reform as unfair vilification of law enforcement, as if the struggles of police officers and of blacks is comparable. An officer has official power and a duty to conduct his/herself in a way worthy of that power. It is voluntary to take on- or resign from- a position in law enforcement. A Black person has no official authority, does not choose race, and can never “resign” it or otherwise avoid subtle and unsubtle discrimination.
The speaker challenged those in the audience who disagreed to come to the podium, while school staff and police prevented the audience from doing so. Yet, school staff had not stopped the speaker. This non-verbal message needs to be corrected.
YCSD has an obligation to communicate an appropriate message now. Apologizing for “any” hurt suggests the hurt might be too sensitive rather than that speech was wrong.