Earlier this month, a Los Angeles charter school teacher did a simple thing to show solidarity with the movement against systemic racism in policing—she wore a T-shirt that reads “I can’t breathe.” The result? White people lost their damn minds. For the mere acknowledgment that Black lives do in fact matter, this educator said she was forced to endure so much harassment and so many death threats, that she felt the need to flee her home and the school where she had been teaching for more than 10 years.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the English teacher at El Camino Real Charter High School—who hasn’t been named due to safety concerns—was wearing the shirt because she had just attended a workshop at her school about how to create an anti-racist curriculum as part of a national program called Black Lives Matter at School. She wore it in front of her online class of ninth-graders on the first day of classes. Unfortunately, a parent of one of her students saw the shirt and got the undergarments that match his favorite Klan robe (I’m guessing) all in a bunch.
From the Times:
But one parent thought his daughter’s teacher had gone too far. He just wanted his daughter to “go to English class and learn about English,” he told KCBS-TV Channel 2. He shared a screenshot of the teacher on social media — unleashing nearly two weeks of turmoil as a national divide over race and policing infiltrated the high school in suburban Woodland Hills.
After a conservative media personality reposted the father’s screenshot, a torrent of threats poured in on social media, frightening the teacher enough that she fled her home with her daughter and sought restraining orders against the parent and the media commentator.
Imagine getting this deep inside your little colonizer feelings over a T-shirt. This is white fragility on steroids.
“Haven’t felt safe enough to go home since 8/18/20,” the teacher wrote in her filing for a restraining order Monday. She also noted that she “can’t work,” that she suffers from “mental anguish” and is in fear for her child’s safety, according to the Times.
Before going to court, she wrote an email to her students requesting that they “Please let other students know that the school has abandoned me, ironically after we had a whole day of professional development on how and why to create an anti-racist curriculum.”
In response, around 100 students gathered on the school’s campus Wednesday in support of her and “to end racial injustices and silence within our school systems,” according to an Instagram post promoting the protest. In addition, hundreds of teachers across the Los Angeles Unified School District wore Black Lives Matter shirts in support of the educator.
“What happened at El Camino is a travesty,” United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz said, the Times reports. “No one should have to endure those kinds of attacks, and surely the school should be doing a much better job in addressing the attacks as well as shielding the educators that work at the school site.”
Myart-Cruz also sent a letter to the school’s executive director, David Hussey, on Monday.
“Educators need to be able to teach about racial and social injustice without threats, harassment, bullying, or scare-tactics,” she wrote. “UTLA believes Black Lives Matter, has provided resources, and emphasizes that simply saying Black Lives Matter is not enough: educators and administrators must actively show it in their work in creating and promoting anti-racist curriculum.”
In response to Myart-Cruz’s letter, Hussey sent an email to the school’s student body and faculty saying that the school “believes that all people are equal and that all voices should be heard, valued and included. We also recognize the need to end systemic racism that disproportionately harms, disciplines, and fails our Black students. Therefore, ECR is dedicated to racial justice within our education.”
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