Can a white guy lead the Minneapolis school system?
It’s a stark question and potentially an inflammable one, judging by the reaction to some of the comments made last night when members of the Minneapolis school board picked Ed Graff, a Bemidji, Minn., native and outgoing superintendent of the Anchorage, Alaska schools, over Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.
Graff is white, Cassellius is African-American.
Board member Don Samuels has gotten plenty of attention today for saying that he was initially skeptical of Graff. He was, according to the Star Tribune‘s citation, unhappy the board was considering “a white guy.”
But he says he got to know the soon-to-be superintendent.
“To some degree, he is quite an evolved human being,” Samuels is quoted as saying.
“Ed Graff is white and he knows it very well because he’s been the white guy many times,” Samuels said, according to the Bemidji Pioneer.
A little more context, courtesy of MinnPost:
Board Member Don Samuels said Graff’s communication style, willingness to put himself in vulnerable situations, and experience living and teaching on Native American reservations put many of his initial concerns to rest.
“I think if he has a relationship with the Native American community, it will translate effectively to the African-American community,” he said. “I think I can go out on a limb and say, to some degree, he is quite an evolved human being.”
Board member Rebecca Gagnon echoed Samuel’s sentiments. “I think we have someone with unique ability and integrity and student focus. He says it a million times because he lives it to his core.”
Samuels, who is not white, was one of six votes for Graff.