From the Editor: the Cobb school board white sponsor rule

Larry Johnson, the editor and publisher of the Cobb County Courier seated in an office chair in front of a small table with a laptop in article about Cobb County Courier Meet the Editor

Those of you who were readers of the Courier before our coverage of the Cobb County school board heated up know that I don’t like writing opinion articles. If you click on the “From the Editor” category above you’ll find long gaps between articles.

And here I am writing two back-to-back.

In yesterday’s article I said that the silencing of Black board members should be called what it is, and not overlaid with more polite language framing it as a partisan dispute. The piece was entitled: “Dispense with the BS. The continued silencing of Black Cobb school board members is about race.”

The reason for this one today is to clarify a statement I wrote yesterday:

“So when the school board put a rule in place that a Black member can’t get an item on the agenda without getting a white sponsor, it’s an overt, mind-numbingly, shockingly racist act.”

To make it clear to people who haven’t been following the school board meetings regularly, the school board did not pass a rule explicitly stating, “No Black member may get an item on the agenda without a white sponsor.”

By the same token, the literacy tests and poll tax laws passed in the South during the Jim Crow era, which were clearly designed to keep Black people from voting were never called the “Keep Black People from Voting Act.”

Nor was the county unit system, intended to dilute the Black vote to a fraction of the clout of a white vote in Georgia called the “Dilute the Black Vote System.”

I called it the white sponsor rule because that was the effect. In order for a Black board member to get an item on the agenda, at least one white sponsor would need to be lined up, not very likely on any substantive issue given the nature of the current school board majority.

The rule was passed at a time when the board was involved in a sharp dispute over the attempts to pass a resolution condemning racism. To this date the board is not on the record with an official condemnation of racism.

Before that only three members were required to get an item on the agenda.

Do the math.

Since then the school board has passed a resolution banning the teaching of Critical Race Theory, even though the board chair could not define it, and banning the use of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project in classroom instruction.

So I’m going to assume that with this amount of smoke coming from the Cobb school board, there’s a great deal of fire, and will continue calling the agenda rule the white sponsor rule.

One of the oddest thing I’ve encountered on social media is a couple of people pointing to their disapproval of the specific Black people on the Cobb Board of Education as a reason for the silencing.

It was like saying, “They didn’t try to keep Black people from speaking, it was about keeping those particular Black people from speaking.”

Well, folks, it doesn’t work that way. The voters in their districts chose the candidates they wanted to represent them. The white majority of the school board has not only interfered with the ability of the Black members to function, but have denied voters in their districts a voice.