NYC Top Educator’s Efforts to Battle ‘White Supremacy Culture’ Met With Criticism, Potential Lawsuit: Report

Photo: Richard Drew (AP Photo)

New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza has made it his mission as the city’s top education administrator to tackle systemic racism—a major issue for a school system that ranks as the country’s largest, and among its most segregated.

To help do that, Carranza has advocated for major changes to the way New York City screens students for its prestigious public schools, created grants to encourage local schools to generate their own diversity plans and prioritized ongoing anti-bias training for educators.

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His efforts have been met with resistance, particularly from the city’s conservative press and among veteran educators, who say white administrators been demoted or pulled out of their responsibilities in favor of “less qualified” people of color.

The New York Post reported last week, citing anonymous sources, that Carranza has demoted at least four veteran Department of Education officials—all white women—who are now planning to sue the city for discrimination.

Sources told the Post the chancellor’s administration was “an environment which is hostile toward whites,” adding, “there’s a toxic whiteness concept going on.” The lawsuit, they say, is imminent, and is set to be filed in the next couple weeks.

Two days later, the Post ran another story showcasing a leaked photo from an anti-racism training given to school administrators. The photo shows slide listing components of “white supremacy culture,” including “defensiveness” and “paternalism.”

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In a brilliant self-own, one anonymous Manhattan school teacher whined to the Post about feeling as though her colorblind upbringing had been attacked:

“I say they’re my students whether they’re green, purple, orange or black,” the educator, who asked not to be identified, told The Post. “We’re being told if you’re not recognizing students as African American, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Dominican, et cetera, you’re wrong.”

“It feels like I’m in a dystopian novel where all of a sudden being white is bad. All of a sudden, I’m the enemy.”

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Conservative sites trashed the slide, scoffing at the idea that concepts like “individualism,” “objectivity,” or “perfectionism” could be tied to cultural values and biases, and be fraught in and of themselves. The Post’s editorial board even went on the record to call the training “far worse than nonsense.”

Here’s some necessary context for those (thankfully) living outside the incestuous New York media bubble: The Post is the very same Rupert Murdoch-owned publication that fanned the flames of a racist, anti-Muslim backlash against U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar when they published an inflammatory cover, completely stripped of context, attacking Omar for comments she made about how Muslims were treated post-9/11.

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There are racist dog whistles, and there are cattle calls. This was the latter.

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So it’s not altogether shocking that the Post would launch such an obvious, pointed attack on a chancellor who hasn’t backed down from questioning New York’s most privileged parents and administrators about their motivations in pushing back against integration efforts. Still, the tenor of the Post’s stories has been so negative that education officials actually decided to stage a demonstration this week in support of the chancellor. On Tuesday, high-ranking education officials donned light blue as a show of solidarity for Carranza and his administration, according to the education blog Chalkbeat. More than 100 educators also gathered in lower Manhattan to further demonstrate their support.

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Nevertheless, the lesson from all this is clear: trying to fight systemic racism—even in one the country’s most diverse cities, even among educators whose stated objective is to provide the best example, and the best education, they can to their students—will win you some powerful enemies.

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?