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Be cautious when labeling others as 'racist'
by JENNIFER AUSTIN | Clipper Editor
Jan 25, 2012 | 617 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last spring two administrators at Alta High School were put on paid leave, Principal Mont Widerberg later retired and vice principal Mark Montague was transferred to another school, after accusations of racism.

Canyons spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook was indirectly quoted in the Deseret News as saying, “The investigation pertains to ‘serious incidents’ that have taken place at the school over the past year that were uncovered recently, Toomer-Cook said, declining to elaborate.”

The Canyons isn’t speaking now that the allegations have been settled and Montague was cleared of those accusations.

According to a letter drafted by attorneys James C. Lewis and John Pace, Montague has settled all claims stemming from a spirit assembly that started the allegations, and the transfer to Butler Middle School. He voluntarily resigned effective Jan. 20.

“I am completely satisfied with this outcome,” Montague said. “It was gratifying to have it acknowledged that there was absolutely no finding of racism or condoning of racism on my part. Throughout this ordeal, I’ve heard from former students who told me that they believed in me and let me know I made a difference in their lives.”

Pace, along with Lewis, said the hardest part was watching his client’s frustration at not being able to respond to inferences that he somehow condoned objectionable behavior. “You’ll never find a more dedicated and responsible educator than Mark. It nearly killed him to think that former students, parents or colleagues might actually believe some of the negative rumors.”

Although the matter is now settled, this incident brings to light serious accusations that are carelessly thrown around that can damage the reputation and character of innocent people. I see it often, especially after the last Presidential election. If one didn’t vote for Obama, they could immediately be considered racist.

The term “racist” is over used and rarely accurate I believe. The tone of my voice when I discuss my thoughts on Obama can have someone accuse me of being racist. But does that mean I am? If you looked at my family you would know I could not possibly be a member of my family if I was racist. But that didn’t stop those who accused Montague, who has a 13-month-old bi-racial granddaughter.

Labeling any person with little knowledge is dangerous to their reputation and should not be used lightly. It is a serious thing to be accused of being a racist.

When we blindly accuse others, we are weakening our community, our state and our country. When someone in an official position is accused of being racist for not being politically correct, they often tend to issue an apology the next day, which further provokes those who throw out the label so carelessly. It teaches them that their behavior, labeling others without proof, is tolerable; and it gives them power.

Unfortunately, it also desensitizes our community so when a true issue comes forward, we will not take it as seriously.
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