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Demographic Rug Pull

Demographic Rug Pull

By Douglas Marolla

In Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story, “The Cask of Amontillado”, the narrator, Montresor, buries his enemy, Fortunato, alive.  Poe goes into great detail as to ‘what’ happens to Fortunato.  We barely get the ‘why’.  Montresor explains in the first sentence that Fortunato “insulted” him.  That’s it. That’s all we ever get.  Montresor, under false pretense, lures the hapless Fortunato down into the catacombs, where he meets a demented, slow, and horrible death.

Alfred Hitchcock was well known for showing people ‘what’ was happening in his films, and rarely, if ever, explaining the ‘why’.  He famously was asked about a character in his movie, “Why did she do that?”  “I don’t know”, he replied, “I’ve barely met her.”

In fiction, writing the ‘what’ and not the ‘why’ works.  The reader is forced to think and fill in the blanks.  In school and public policy, it is a terrible thing.

School District Demographics

My district is demographically changing, and it’s changing quickly.  Our Black population is being pushed out as Spanish-speaking migrants get pushed in.  The Biden administration wants the southern border wide open.  Millions of undocumented people are coming into the country. No one is asking why about either issue.  They are only seeing what is happening.  

Within school districts, the English as a Second Language (ESL) / English as a New Language  (ENL) department is growing, while the number of jobs available in the subject is exploding.  Many staff members are noting what is happening. Demographics are changing so rapidly, that it’s impossible not to notice.  

Our baseball team just won a championship game.  Perhaps this is a fringe benefit of the situation – we shall see. More students with diverse backgrounds and skill sets enrich the athletic environment for everyone. Nevertheless, one of our administrators asked the woman who makes the daily announcements to come back on the loudspeaker after the announcements were over and re-read the news about the baseball championship, but this time, in Spanish.

Incidents like this are only but a few of the new types of events going on here. Did the administrator think the baseball team cared if the announcement was read in Spanish? Does she think that the team would only know about the championship unless it was announced in their mother tongue? Was she thinking that the Spanish-speaking population needed that specific bit of information spoon-fed?

Administrative Choices Shape Community

Surface-level, reactionary thinking permeates the district.  The administrator is a product of the area – she’s part of a generations-long lineage born and raised here.  They are a proud Black family.  This area, her neighborhood, will be radically different from the one where she and her parents and grandparents grew up.  The change has already begun.  While she’s looking at what’s happening, she’s never acknowledging why, or putting up any kind of resistance.  School officials can use their position to control how many students attend and who can come into the building.  They can also advocate or raise awareness as to what is happening.  Yet, no one is saying anything.

What should the school district do with the recent and exponential influx of Spanish-speaking migrants?  Our administrator’s destructive, thoughtless, and reflexive altruism will not only foster but vaporize nearly 200 years of glorious Black American History. Perhaps providing a safe space for migrants (let’s read announcements in Spanish), outweighs any other issues.  Perhaps these students are here to learn English, and making English language acquisition too easy is academically destructive. Who knows? Why is the neighborhood changing?  These are all unasked questions, as the district’s leaders are all on the same political team. Holding their feet to the fire – forget about changing voting habits – would be unthinkable. Voting Republican may not be the answer, I doubt it is, but it would certainly get people’s attention.  It would most assuredly create complaints about ‘racism’.

And this is how it goes.  Absolutely zero pushback in the form of ‘why is this happening’ in the here and now.  We get plenty of explanations, lamentations, and hand-wringing about why “white flight” happened here 70 years ago.  Classes and conferences go into detail as to why white flight helped ruin and change neighborhoods during our grandparent’s time.  Racism is trotted out as the reason, and there is uniformity of opinion.  Now there is a demographic earthquake in play, and no one seems to care.  No one is raising the specter of racism as the Black population gets crowded out and resources are diverted to others.  Black taxpayers, here for generations, are getting a raw deal.  We are a school with a blanket-free and reduced lunch designation.  Title I money will pay for some of our students’ food and supplies, but we are already facing budget cuts here in New York.  Resources and budgets are finite.  Education is a zero-sum game. Eventually, our long-time residents will be forced to do with less.  

A New Form of Gentrification

When the future historians sift through the rubble and the records from the neighborhood, perhaps they will ask,

Why were the people in charge fixated on things 70 years in the past, and not at all concerned about, and totally oblivious to the deconstruction of their area in real-time?

Too often the severity of the situation facing communities takes a back seat to past grievances.  It’s easy to be critical of historical wrongs.  What’s not easy is confronting current problems and figuring out why they’re happening and how to fix them.

If our state is going to accept a seemingly endless wave of new immigrants then something has to be done to accommodate them without destroying the identity of existing communities. Should new schools be built to handle the hundreds of new students entering the district? Do we sit by and watch decades of history and tradition disappear because of unregulated immigration? One can only surmise what would happen if school officials or community leaders asked difficult questions.  A question lingers over all of this. A resounding Hitchcockian “what”. What if white people were displacing the Black population?  I suspect the outcry would be much louder. 

Douglas Marolla

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