Danielle Stewart for Mayor of Beckley
Position Paper #13: Diversity
“The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity…The belief that there is only one right way to live, only one right way to regulate religious, political, sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to man: members of his own species, bent on ensuring his salvation, security, and sanity. ”
― Thomas Szasz
Judging by salaries, quarterbacks are the most important players on any football team.
It only stands to reason that since a quarterback is the most valuable player on a team (judged by the money they make) that the first NFL team that fields 11 quarterbacks at once on offense, defense, and special teams will dominate every other team in the NFL. Let us take that a step further. Tom Brady is widely considered the best quarterback ever to play professional football. So, if a team could clone 22 Tom Brady’s, they would have the best football team in history!
Anybody who follows even a little football would look at you funny if you ever made those statements. They know it takes fast receivers, stocky running backs, and strong linemen on offense (and equally talented defensive and special teams’ players) to win at football. In other words, a team of diverse talents and backgrounds that work together towards a common goal. The coach that embraces that diversity and treats all with dignity and respect leads those teams to championships.
Beckley is one of the most diverse cities in WV (click HERE for the article). According to the last census statistics, the African-American population makes up almost 22% of the city population while Asians and multiracial individuals each comprise 2.5% of the population. Overall, 30% of Beckley is made up of racial minorities (click HERE for the Census Bureau statistics).
Beckley is less diverse than the United States as a whole and that is primarily because we do not have a large Hispanic population. As a percentage Beckley has more African-Americans than the national average.
So, where is this diversity? By these statistics, 3 out of every 10 employees in every business in Beckley should be a racial minority. 3 out of every 10 employees of the city should be a racial minority. I can tell you as fact that the city departments are not racially diverse. My eyes tell me that most businesses are not racially diverse either. I attend many events throughout Beckley and even at the most entertaining events, diversity is severely lacking (except in sports in which everything is forgotten so long as they win). What is going on here?
There is so much going on here. We have a high school named after an extremely racist president, Woodrow Wilson, yet the Board of Education is deaf to the complaints. The city purchases a country club that for years discriminated against minorities and the city refuses to change the name to something more inclusive. We have neighborhoods that are completely left out of development efforts while money is spent buying and building facilities on the other end of town (IT department and fire station on Industrial Drive). The city has deliberately alienated and excluded 30% of the population (except in sports). Our African-American, Hispanic, Muslim, and other minorities all feel forgotten and feel that the city just doesn’t care for them. A lot of them are afraid to speak up about issues and those that do speak up feel like nobody listens.
While I focus on race here, the reality is the minority populations (ranging from religious minorities to the LGBTQ+ community) feel disenfranchised by the city. It is way past time for the city to stand up and be inclusive of all. The city took a step towards inclusion when it added nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community to the city human rights ordinance but we need to do more. I will do more for everyone.
I will hire a director for the city Human Rights Commission to reach out to the people of the community and provide a connection to city services. The director will also be charged with investigating violations of the city human rights ordinance. The director will be the “voice at the table” to ensure our minorities are heard.
I will issue guidance to all city departments to improve the representation of minorities in our city government. This representation must be more than just in entry level positions and public works. I firmly believe that all city departments should reflect the diversity of our city.
I believe we need to do more than just accept our diverse population; we need to celebrate our diverse population. The HRC Director will work with Beckley Events and the community to host and support celebrations of our diversity, including events celebrating religious holidays, historical figures and actions, and other inclusive activities. We will show the state and nation that everyone is welcome in Beckley.
Most minority populations no longer trust the city to meet their needs and it will take a lot of time and effort for people to trust the city government again. I will truly listen to all residents and I will earnestly work to earn their trust. I will create a Beckley for all the residents of Beckley.
“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”
― Mahatma Gandhi