Silence equals assent

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

And so it begins.

President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order halting border crossings from seven Muslim-majority nations as new “extreme vetting” procedures are being put in place. The fact that not one terrorist attack in the U.S. has come from folks from those nations, seems less germane than a rush to do something, anything — despite no credible threat, no act of terror, nothing.

Rightly, protests from West Chester to Philadelphia International Airport are springing up in the area, as people react to this and ask, and ask rightly, “who is next?”

Trump has already declared war on the media, spent much of his campaign vilifying Muslims, Hispanics and other groups and that pattern does not seem to be changing as he sits in the Oval Office, egged on by White Nationalist (a polite way of saying racist) Steve Bannon and his weasly henchman, Stephen Miller. So, clearly, it’s a matter of time before the next group finds a target on its collective back.

And, look, spare me the claims that this was done for security. Not one terrorist attack in this country has come from folks from the seven countries — not one. And the idiotic claims that somehow Barack Obama is to blame — his identification of the seven countries suggested extra scrutiny for folks visiting those nations and then coming here — are just that, weak spin to cover a pointless, vicious executive order.

Yes, the silence — or worse — namby-pamby explanations of Trump’s actions by local members of Congress is frustrating, but recent history has taught us to expect them to show the moral courage of a bowl of overcooked spaghetti, before slinking off to their next fundraiser. Disappointing? Sure. Unexpected? Not even slightly.

We do tend to expect more from our local elected officials — and I’ll focus a bit on one body that has stood out in Chester County with an impressive combination of tone deafness and wealthy white privilege: the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education.

For months now, that body has stonewalled the idea of offering a public declaration of support for various minority groups in the school community who feel threatened (and frankly, with good reason as we’ve seen in recent days) — to the extent that one of the board’s members, Michael Rock, quit. While I don’t agree with Rock quitting, rather than staying and fighting, his basic premise that most of the board lacked anything like a frame of reference to understand what those folks are feeling is right. Keep in mind, minority parents came before the board multiple times in the final months of 2016 seeking something, anything and got nothing.

As if writing a letter and saying, in essence, “we’re with you,” was somehow so daunting, such a burden. The lame protestations that “we’ve done enough” ring deeply hollow when it would take so little to mean so much to so many.

High school principal Jimmy Conley’s email to the school community Friday on the subject was a start — and no knock on him for at least trying — but it in no way makes up for stubborn, embarrassing insensitivity being shown by most of this board and this administration.

The subject came up again last week when board member Gregg Lindner suggested that the board and administration should look into diversity training, so it could better understand some of the issues confronting minority groups in the community.

Let’s be honest: the board and administration has a massive optics problem. To a person, they’re a bunch of rich, white folks, who frankly have little first-hand understanding of what is like to be a minority, or poor or disabled or a combination of those issues. For some of these folks, a bad day is when their latte order at Starbucks is wrong — and some perspective is clearly in order.

Do I think as a group they are racist? No, of course not — but they clearly suffer from not knowing what they don’t know.

Do they know that for the crime of being a Democrat, I was literally spit on at a polling place in the school district not that many years ago? Or when I was running for office, someone painted a swastika on the road in front of my home, while kindly egging it? Or flattened all of the tires on my wife’s minivan because it had my campaign logo on it? Do they know that gay students were physically and verbally assaulted in the halls of the Unionville High School little more than a decade ago (and there are Unionville families who have sent their children off for the “gay cure?”). Do they know how many times on a playground one kid has said to another: “my dad says you’re going to get deported?” This list could literally go on and on — and sadly, does.

This stuff is real — not imagined. Unionville is an excellent school district, but it has its warts and tumors: airbrushing them will not make them go away. Admitting there is a problem is always the first step to solving one.

Meanwhile, the silence is deafening.

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