As a graduate of a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) high school in the United Kingdom, I have a personal interest in the story of Kelisa Wing, the Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Department of Defense's Education Activity (DoDEA) department.
Wing recently vanished from social media, after reporters published a series of her past dispatches from Twitter. Her disappearance was for a good reason, because Wing is a racist who, by her own admission, is "exhausted" by the "Caudacity" (Caucasian audacity) of "white folx" and yet somehow won a 2017 Teacher of the Year award while working in New York.
The DoDEA has some 15,000 permanent and temporary employees, and its schools are responsible for teaching nearly 70,000 children of active-duty military and civilian families. And now, according to the DoDEA, this racist award-winning teacher oversees the curriculum for 160 DoD schools in places like Quantico, West Point, Germany, the UK, Japan, and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
A Teacher with Nothing to Hide
In a 2020 interview Wing discussed her experience in winning the Teacher of the Year award. "I wasn’t going to apply," she said, "because I never saw anyone who won the award who looked like me. … I remember looking online and I saw these -- for 20 years -- these white women, and nobody else, and I remember crying and thinking ‘they’re never going to pick me’.”
Wing also said that "Equity, to me, truly just means making sure that our students have what they need to be successful." Excuse me for asking, but what, in Wing's estimation, do “white” students “need” from school; if Wing is too “exhausted” to give it to them; and if so, would it be Caudacious to ask “white women” to stand in for her?
Wing’s 2018 book Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline provides more information about her pedagogy. A 2021 YouTube review of the book quotes Wing at length.
1. "Many teachers have their own implied biases that need to be deconstructed."
2. "Wing dares her readers to ask: do you have any biases? Then asks: has your bias hindered you from reaching every child in your classroom?"
3. "She again asks teachers to become self-aware of their biases and learn to be comfortable in schools that do not reflect the way that they look or how they were raised."
4. "Everything an adult does should be setting an example for students of how they should behave. Everything should be a teachable moment. ... And as my teaching philosophy says, every child is our mystery and we as teachers need to figure out how to reach them."
Clearly, Wing doesn't live by her own rules. Clearly, she is biased against white people. And clearly, the DoD either knew or should have known that when they promoted her in 2021.
So how does a Teacher of the Year go from asking “has your bias hindered you from reaching every child in your classroom” to publicly proclaiming “I'm exhausted with these white folx” to being hired as the diversity chief for a U.S. military school system?
What impact does Wing’s form of systemic racism have on our military families, and do I dare to have the Caudacity of Hope that the Department of Defense will do something about it? How many other people employed by DoDEA are racists like Wing? Does the 2022 Teacher of the Year hate white kids as much as Wing does?
Diversity and Discrimination
I ask because I spent almost a third of my life on U.S. Air Force bases and in DoD schools. In that era — before we needed a political slogan to declare that “diversity is our strength” — true diversity was a simple fact of military life.
No human institution is perfect, but the military’s schools demanded both self-respect and respect for others. The students lived up to that mandate with regular assistance from the adults. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about some of the civilian schools I attended.
At Benjamin Sims Jr. High in Hampton, Virginia, the hallway outside the cafeteria was the scene of daily race-based fistfights. After lunch, a line of black students would link arms and march down the hall, daring anyone to challenge their power. I was both stupid enough to do that, and lucky enough that one of my black friends saved me from a beating. The adults, as usual, were nowhere to be found.
Gerard Robinson — the gentleman who interviewed Kelisa Wing in 2021— quoted W.E.B Du Bois in an article for USA Today. “The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line,” Du Bois wrote in 1903, and just over a century later, Robinson observed, “7 out of 10 Americans believe that our political, social and racial divisions are driven from the top down by politicians and news outlets.” “According to the new Public Agenda/USA TODAY Hidden Common Ground survey,” Robinson continued, “we are more united in our belief that divisiveness is a major problem than we are in a pathway to remedy it.”
Robinson had four suggestions on how to fix the problem. One of them was, “To avoid a Hobbesian ‘war of all against all,’ we need to identify areas of compromise and to develop a shared civic vocabulary that is bigger than party or race.” Robinson says he is a Black Republican, and as a white Republican, I agree with his assessment. But I can’t help wondering about a few things.
Why — when Wing said she needed to “uproot and tear down some things in order to make something new” — did Robinson just sit there and nod in agreement? Did he not know he was interviewing a racist who wants to tear down 60 years of civil rights law and build a new education system based on racial discrimination?
Does he agree with Ibram X. Kendi that “the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination” and “the only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination”? In other words, does Black Republican Robinson agree with Black Educator Wing that discriminating against “white folx” will remedy America’s historic discrimination against black folx?
The Path Ahead Means Not Going Backwards
There are answers to this systemic issue of systemic racism, and Robinson appears to know what will work even if Wing does not. Her abrupt disappearance from social media means she’s not sticking around to defend her methods.
But even if we know what the answers are doesn’t mean we can implement them, not least because — to repeat the Robinson quote — America’s “social and racial divisions are driven from the top down by politicians and news outlets.”
I graduated from a racially functional DoD high school in 1980, four years after leaving a racially dysfunctional public school in 1976. By all accounts, racial division is worse in 2022 than it was in 1980. But I know that going backward is not the answer, because “the good old days” weren’t all that good and everyone knows “you can’t go home again.”
No, we need to go forward. Unfortunately, that will be impossible while Joe Biden remains in office, because the Commander in Chief will order his Department of Defense to double down on the systemic racism perpetrated by a racist diversity chief.
For now, maybe the rest of us could start by asserting that “diversity,” as defined by the new racists, has become our weakness.
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