No diamond to be found: Addressing Matthew Dean’s comments

Evident through a recent board meeting, there is a lack of respect for students and a belittling of the issues of bullying and racism. At the May 17 Campbell Unified High School District board meeting, Muskaan Sandhu, Leigh senior, and Taykhoom Dalal, Del Mar senior, both student board members, spoke on racism, student teacher relationships, and bias at CUHSD schools.

Sandhu emphasized instances of students being called racial slurs and spoke on bullying faced by students of color based on focus groups the two leaders held at various high schools in the district.

After a round of comments, board member Matthew Dean began with, “One. Bigger fonts please,” regarding their presentation. The tone of the comment came close to patronizing. Dean then said students should find the value in remarks that degrade, as it can be seen as a way of feedback.

As an example, Dean spoke on how his son in middle school is bullied because of his weight and how he then told his son, “you are round, son” and spoke on his diet. Dean then described this way of feedback as finding a diamond in the rough.

“Those diamonds are in there at times, and if it’s really a friend, they’re actually trying to help you,” said Dean.

Being bullied because you are a person of color does not equate to bullying because of weight. Not only can you not change what race you are, where you come from, or your skin, this comment effectively degrades the potency of the racial comments Sandhu noted.

In response, Sandhu said, “There is no diamon in that, there’s danger in that, there’s oppression in that, and that needs to be recognized,” regarding students being called the n-word.

Dean then remarked on how he plays basketball and how the n-word is mostly not used by Caucasians. Dean, in this situation, is not responding to the problems brought up but rather is in defense of his own tone deaf comments.

But this response from Dean does not indicate that communication and understanding between board members and the immediate community of students of color is lacking.

What needs to happen is that more trust should be granted to students. Trust from higher ups should be given to students especially those who are facing inexcusable remarks such as being called the n-word. Trust should be listening and implementing resources such as outlets to discuss harassment that take real, effective action. Dean issued an apology regarding the meeting, but this fails to heal what has been said. Dean should take a step further to proactively engage with students of color, making an attempt to gain perspective that goes beyond his own experiences which may not equate to those of color.

A representative from the district could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.