Charleston County School Board Member Chris Collins has recently come under fire for urging Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait to allow his daughter into a magnet school for which she was put on a waiting list. Despite the fact that Collins, as a board member, has a hand in hiring and firing superintendents, he says there is nothing unethical about his request. Furthermore, he says it is a matter of “common courtesy” for a superintendent to allow his daughter to jump ahead of other applicants and his children should get automatic acceptance into any school because of his position.
Collins is clearly trying to use his public position to give his family benefits. As reported in the Post & Courier, Collins went further by quietly bullying Postlewait, suggesting she should “want to be at peace with board members” in the wake of teacher demonstrations over unfair evaluation practices. He then suggested that allowing his daughter into the school was an opportunity to “do good”. To put the cherry on top, Collins tried to justify his actions by claiming it is in the interest of racial equality because of a lack of diversity in Charleston’s top magnet schools.
Collins’ statements are weak and undermine the challenges being faced by minorities. His actions are selfish and damaging to the greater good of racial equality.
His strategy of trying to usurp school policies, over which he resides, suggests a philosophy that government officials do not work for the public. Instead, his is a position of power over the populace; a boot on our necks.
That is exactly what is wrong with modern politics and why it has become acceptable for Republicans, for example, to rewrite tax laws and take money out of the pockets of the middle class and give it to the wealthy. This is the new “morality.” Collins is simply applying this despicable approach to politics and leveraging legitimate racial issues to benefit himself.
The claim that Postlewait would be doing the right thing by giving his African-American daughter a special privilege because of his position is absurd. Allowing one minority into the school because her father is on the school board will do nothing to curb the lack of diversity in Charleston’s elite magnet programs. That can only be accomplished by publicly identifying this lack as a problem and crafting policies that combat it. Furthermore, it mimics the exact same privilege that minorities are fighting against across the country. Replacing white privilege with political privilege is equally immoral.
Collins doesn’t stop there. He then argues that he deserves the privilege because he works hard as a board member. Collins was quoted as saying, “the public doesn’t commit the time that we do. We commit the time and effort to it.” For this reason, he suggests his child should be able to take another’s spot.
There are a couple of problems with this statement. The first is the common problem of “representatives” who separate themselves from “the public” once reaching an elected office. Politicians have a tendency to believe they are exceptional despite the fact they were given their power by the very people they later belittle. This is disgraceful.
Secondly, if Collins is truly concerned about the issue of racial inequality and can speak from experience, then he should know better than to question and trivialize other people dealing with the same issue. All children and their hard-working parents have every bit as much claim to a good education.
It is possible that Collins truly believed that his daughter being admitted to to the school would strike a blow against inequality, however insufficient and personally beneficial it would have been. However, any claimed racial impact would have been dwarfed by the political immorality utilized to make it happen. Furthermore, his use of a lack of diversity to justify his actions is easily distilled into selfishness and should be shameful for a man who puts the term “Reverend” before his name.
Hopefully, Collins can appreciate the ideals of a fellow Reverend, Martin Luther King Jr., who desired a world where people are judged on the content of their character instead of a “common courtesy” awarded a member of the school board.
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