It’s been a tough week in Georgia, with heavy snowfall last weekend that paralyzed the northern half of the state. Now businesses are playing catch up. The mail is being delivered again. And school systems are gearing up to finally welcome students back after a supersized Christmas break. Most school districts will reopen on Tuesday, January 18th because the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is on Monday, January 17th. School districts in rural Fannin and Gilmer counties in have decided to hold classes tomorrow instead of waiting until Tuesday, sparking outrage from the Georgia state chapter of NAACP and other civil rights activists Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Gilmer County Superintendent Bryan Dorsey said he “certainly understands the criticism” but added that officials are “running out of choices.”
“It’s tough when people don’t realize that since Dec. 2 we’ve only had kids in school two whole days and two half days,” Dorsey said. “Since Dec. 10 we’ve almost had a small summer break already.”
In addition to the extraordinary circumstances all Georgia school systems faced this week, these two counties in the northwest corner of the state will very likely be subject to additional snowfalls over the next few weeks because of their geographical proximity to the Appalachian foothills of Tennessee, which will very likely require their students to miss additional days during this school year.
Some of my fellow African Americans will find the word “disrespect” leap instantly from the lips upon reading the beginning of this story. Some African Americans, although not necessarily the same ones, will find the word “racist” bounding from their lips when they read a little further, and discover that these particular public school districts have student bodies which are 80% to 90% white.
They would be wrong.
Many of those who feel this way, including our state level and national civil rights leaders, may be more interested in honoring the symbolism of the King Holiday than the supple intellect and practical nature of the man himself. These beleaugered superintendents, facing shrunken budgets and a stretch of winter still capable of producing extreme weather for their school systems, made decisions that were in the best interests of their students. The fact that the citizens in this part of Georgia are mostly white probably did play a role in the decision-making process. But in a supreme bit of irony, Georgia’s black students, most of whom will not be attending any King-related service events or memorial programs tomorrow, are the ones whose educational performance indicates the need for more instructional time.
I have absolutely no problem putting the proverbial wood to those who seek to impugn, deride, or desecrate the positive accomplishments black Americans have made to society. For those leaders and civil rights and other small minded African Americans whose feelings have been hurt by the imagined slight of school administrators who dare to labor on the day of our King, maybe this will buck you up—it will be “America Has A Black President Month” each and every month for the foreseeable future.