Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, known for being a magnet for some of the state's best and brightest students, apparently has an issue attracting black students to even apply. The school's Black Student Union is doing its best to help matters, and apparently their President has done a fantastic job of increasing outreach, to the point that he's become a beloved leader, even by those who initially ran against him.
There's just one problem, according to some people - that President is white. Meet Michael Wattendorf:
According to the Washington Post, while Wattendorf's election has done mostly good things for the school's black student union, it's also sparked an impromptu debate over racism at the school, and within the Black Student Union itself. To those who bemoan Thomas Jefferson High's general lack of racial diversity (defined in this case as a high volume of Hispanic and/or Black students), the election of a white students to head the school's Black Student Union is further evidence of the school's entrenched racism. After all, if there were more black students, surely there'd be more competition for leadership, and even if there weren't, they still wouldn't vote for a white kid, right?
The other side counters that actually, they might have. Wattendorf's term has, according to even his former opponents, been a major success. Wattendorf has increased outreach to area elementary schools and gone out of his way to increase membership in the club. Most students - even those who cracked jokes about his race - have now turned into his enthusiastic defenders. Indeed, apparently the only area where Wattendorf's leadership has been questioned has been his hesitance to rush to judgment on the case of Trayvon Martin. From the Post story:
“I understand what you’re saying,” he said. “But to offer the alternative opinion . . . if there was a chance he was beating Zimmerman, that is important to know.”
After the meeting, Prater said in an interview that Wattendorf is not always going to share the same perspective as the African American members of the club.
“He’s done an amazing job as president. He was the best person who ran,” Prater said. “But I don’t think he understands that Trayvon Martin could have been me. I think Michael knows [the case] is awful, but when you feel like you could be in the same shoes, that you could die and people would defend your killer, well, you have a completely different viewpoint.”
So if nothing else, Wattendorf won't be joining the New Black Panthers. Some might consider that a good thing.