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Monday, March 10, 2008

New APS Superintendent Accepts Congratulations With 'Homo Humor'

This bothers me. WbrooksThe first paragraphs of the front-page article by Zsombor Peter in today's Albuquerque Journal on the selection of a new Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent report:

Winston Brooks took little time displaying his trademark sense of humor after a divided board named him the new superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools on Sunday evening by a 5-2 vote.

"Just so long as I don't have to hug the guys," he said while accepting the board's congratulations. [emphasis mine]

Imagine the furor if Brooks responded to winning his new job by displaying his "trademark sense of humor" this way: "Just so long as I don't have to hug the beaners," or "Just so long as I don't have to hug the chicks," or "Just so long as I don't have to hug the darkies," or "Just so long as I don't have to hug the cripples," or "Just so long as I don't have to hug the slant eyes."

I know, I know, locker-room-style "humor" designed to demonstrate that the joker isn't (God forbid) "gay" or "queer" is still acceptable in many quarters, long after verbal affronts to other minorities have faded from the public lexicon. But to start off your reign as APS' new head honcho with "humor" like that shows about as much cultural sensitivity as a turnip. Maybe it's still de rigueur in places like Wichita, Kansas, where Brooks is currently employed, but you'd think an educator would shy away from such expression when accepting a new job in new community.

Of course the Journal's staff writer apparently had no qualms about the "humor" either. It's related as a charming anecdote about the "very casual" Brooks and how "thrilled to death" he is about his new $276,000 a year job. The article continues, "As his first order of business, Brooks said he would hold a series of public meetings throughout the community and meet with local government and Chamber of Commerce officials."

Maybe Brooks should start with a reach out to the GLBT community, including a few GLBT students. Maybe he'd get a clue why an APS superintendent who uses hackneyed, juvenile, hardee har har humor -- that implies "hugging guys" would be an affront to any manly man -- doesn't exactly present a positive role model for the youth of Albuquerque.

Think about how teens who are GLBT or perceived to be GLBT are often harrassed -- sometimes resulting in violence or suicide -- and then think about the wisdom of a new school superintendent blurting out the kind of "funny" statement Brooks did as one of his first public comments. Some stats on what GLBT students are up against. You'd think an experienced educator like Brooks would be well aware of them, wouldn't you?

March 10, 2008 at 10:43 AM in Education, GLBT Rights | Permalink


I too was outraged at this comment. When will it be considered in bad taste to mock gay men and women?
I wonder what the reaction would be if people went around saying...." oh as long as I do not have to hug the old white man."

It really makes you wonder to about the board's gay insensitivity as well.

It is time for people not promoting fear and hate to get elected to all elected positions...from school board to president of the usa.

Imagine if you were a troubled young gay male right now and saw this comment.

Posted by: outraged | Mar 10, 2008 11:40:18 AM

You are totally right about this. For a description of what young gay students endure, read the account SWOP youth intern Orlando Mancha wrote for SWOPblogger about his experience coming out as a freshman in high school:


Posted by: | Mar 10, 2008 12:08:52 PM

It can be taken as a sexist comment too. You know, real men don't hug.

Posted by: JJ | Mar 10, 2008 12:31:13 PM

Well, Brooks should fit right in with the big wigs. I heard a principal call a short term teacher a "ho" in front of the whole school's staff (was referring to what students supposedly called her - thought it was a "joke")-- lots more inappropriate stuff in APS - makes me want to change careers.

Posted by: teacher | Mar 10, 2008 12:58:52 PM

Does it bother any of you that Winston Brooks will not hold himself honestly accountable as a role model of the student standard of conduct?

That in fact, no one in the leadership of the APS can claim honest accountability to the standards of character and competence that they enforce upon children.
Is role modeling really so unimportant?

Posted by: | Mar 10, 2008 2:10:11 PM

gay bashing by the way, in any form and for any reason violates the unequivocal standards that support the Pillar of Respect.

Posted by: | Mar 10, 2008 2:15:28 PM

A counter point before I weigh in on minority bashing, or life style profiling, any of that.

What if he really just meant that he didn't like the two who didn't vote for him, that he would hug the ones who had faith in him but not the ones who didn't, so he didn't get stabbed in the back in the process?

Ok, then, to bashing of any kind, verbal or physical:

It hurts the doer and the doee both, in both the short and long run. I have been the victim of personal violence, and it undermines your sense of being at a fundamental level. The kids who attacked me are all troubled to this day, criminal records stretching back to their early teens, still happening now as adults. They are worse for having intentionally hurt me, and I am worse for having been violated in that way. The kids who got away with disabling a school employee were not serviced well by not facing consequences for their actions.

And without support and therapy, those who the system has wronged (whistleblowers who are retaliated against, people who assert their lifestyle choice and are fired, etc.)feel alienated from those who are supposedly protecting them, in fear of further retaliation for following the rules too well.

Posted by: < | Mar 10, 2008 2:36:31 PM

"What if he really just meant that he didn't like the two who didn't vote for him, that he would hug the ones who had faith in him but not the ones who didn't, so he didn't get stabbed in the back in the process? Good point however I would expect Mr Brooks to be educated enough to express himself without ambiguity.

Posted by: VP | Mar 10, 2008 4:13:00 PM

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that he spent years as head of the Catholic school system in Wichita? How does this bode for our sex education and school-based clinics at APS, as well as for the rights of students and staff (and families) who are members of sexual minorities?

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Mar 10, 2008 4:49:56 PM

Whatever he meant, it's still bad form for the head of a school district to use the first opportunity he gets after getting the job to "joke" about hugging men. This is not a good sign and the fact that the Journal thought it was cool to start its article that way is just as bad. What year is it?

Posted by: I Vote | Mar 10, 2008 5:07:23 PM

really 2008 last time i checked.
Isn't kansas where they stopped teaching evolution and were forced to teach creationism?

Posted by: neanderthal | Mar 10, 2008 6:21:51 PM

I had heard this guy speak and rather liked him. Initially...
And then came this comment which I found to be very insensitive, offensive, and telling. I was suddenly reminded that we just hired a superintendent from the bible-belt and, well, humor or not humor; he's clearly got some issues.
I had wanted to like him because I liked the things he had to say about curriculum, NCLB, and improving grad rates.
This is a guy who currently manages a school district that is roughly half the size and half the population of APS. I've read that he has a bit of a temper along with that sense of humor.

I certainly hope the board read that quote and had the hair stand on the back of their necks... just like it did on mine. I was totally bothered by it.


Posted by: | Mar 10, 2008 6:48:11 PM

I'm likely to later regret this, but I'm going to give Brooks the benefit of the doubt on this one and say he was nervous, tired, momentarily stupid, whatever and that he doesn't hold any deeper level of homophobia, etc. The line jarred me as it did everyone here, but I'm not invalidating his entire superintendency...yet.

Meanwhile, the Journal once again shows it just doesn't get it. For Zsombor to pick up on this line, put it front and center in the story as if it were a good enough joke line to warrant front/center action, then not mention how 1. lame; 2. offensive the joke is...is simply pathetic.

Anybody wanna start a newspaper? How about a Winston Brooks Bad Humor Award?

P.S.: I'll also admit I'm not much of a "hugger" kind of guy, regardless of gender. Just full disclosure and all that.

Posted by: | Mar 10, 2008 9:12:51 PM

Maybe not an APS Superintendent, but it would be okay with me if a homosexual man proclaimed he liked hugging men just as it is for a heterosexual man to proclaim he does not. Let's just stop being so charged about this and let it be acceptable for everyone to speak freely. He wasn't saying he doesn't like homosexuals, he was saying he isn't one. There is nothing wrong with that other than, given his position, this was not appropriate but I think we are being too quick to judge here. Bottomline: I don't have to like him personally for him to be good at what he does and since he isn't making friends fast, male or female, he better be damn good at his job!

Posted by: 4ABQ | Mar 11, 2008 10:38:27 AM

Personally, I'm a lot more bothered by the fact that APS has somehow found the money to pay over a quarter million dollars to fill one position, but can't find the money to fund academics adequately. One too many instances of "victimhood" in this I think.

Posted by: Rodney | Mar 11, 2008 12:47:59 PM

Then again, you probably never personally experienced what can happen to GLBT kids in high school. Speech is powerful. The head of a school district should know that.

Whatever he meant, it was a bad way to start out. I hope he does well and I too am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. What choice do we have?

Posted by: Mom | Mar 11, 2008 1:41:13 PM

Really you can tell who has suffered from hate and intolerance by what someone writes.

4abq - you can say your opinion about how you interpret the words he spoke. I do not agree with your interpretation. I am sure he is not gay, chances of a gay person getting into this position are very slim. An openly gay superintendent imagine the fear and outrage. Run for the hills hide your children! The gays are taking over, their agenda is happening.

By the way how did the supertindent position get to be paid so outrageously?

You see I do not even want to write my name on this post for fear of retaliation.

Fear and Hate are alive and well.

Posted by: gay woman | Mar 11, 2008 3:55:33 PM

You hypersensitive idiots are quintessential morons. Thanks for diluting real "hate" and "intolerance" - it harms those who are real victims.

I agree with him, I wouldn't be too fond of hugging the men on the APS School Board... and I'm gay.

Posted by: Dave | Mar 11, 2008 11:45:29 PM

Dave-you're not gay. I can tell by the way you talk about this. If you were you'd understand how fragile the situation is for gay kids in middle or high school and you wouldn't say anything like what you are saying. Its not about liking to hug men on the board or not. He's making one of the most cliched jokes related to gayness and doing it as head of a school district as role model to kids.

Posted by: Dave's not gay | Mar 12, 2008 12:04:39 AM

idiot?, morons?

Congratulations "Dave"
for lowering the tone of an otherwise respectful discussion among stakeholders of their legitimate feelings and opinions.

Posted by: | Mar 12, 2008 9:43:32 AM

As a high school teacher who has worked closely with HS gay and lesbian kids, in human rights and tolerance awareness clubs and forums, one thing is absolutely certain: words hurt. They hurt so badly that sometimes kids kill themselves. I've seen it happen. I have to tell my own students on an almost daily basis that casual comments about "That's gay" have meaning beyond what they might intend ("that sucks") - if you want to say "that sucks" then say just that, but when you say "that's gay" what you are implying is that "gay = sucks." Kids can be 'trained' not to say certain things, and they may not understand why until they are older and more mature, at which point they'll hopefully make a conscious decision to alter their language, but when Brooks makes his statement, he justifies the undoing of all the things I try to teach my students to be more understanding of.

Posted by: | Mar 13, 2008 8:49:25 AM

You should see what he said in today's Journal (3-17) about evolution.

It's on The Panda's Thumb also.


Posted by: | Mar 17, 2008 9:03:43 PM

Wow, what a bunch of PC babies.
Grow up!

Posted by: Jombie | Mar 31, 2008 8:32:47 PM

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