The heated (and ridiculous) debate over Critical Race Theory is turning Black educators into collateral damage. Somehow we just can’t get through to a particular demographic that the academic framework has literally nothing to do with demonizing white people in the classroom.
The most recent victim of the culture wars is a Black Texas principal, James Whitfield, who was placed on paid administrative leave after a man accused him of promoting “the conspiracy theory of systemic racism” at a heated Texas School board meeting in July.
Here’s what happened according to the Washington Post:
Whitfield, the first Black principal to run Colleyville Heritage High School, became embroiled in a local controversy over critical race theory at a July 26 school board meeting. A man introduced in the meeting as Stetson Clark called the principal out by name, in violation of the meeting’s rules, and demanded Whitfield be fired. Members of the audience hollered “fire him” and applauded, Whitfield said.
“That behavior was allowed and a month later, here we are,” the principal told The Post. “I’m placed on paid administrative leave.”
Five days after the meeting, the principal defended himself against the calls for termination in a public Facebook post.
“I can no longer maintain my silence in the face of this hate, intolerance, racism, and bigotry,” he said in the July 31 post. “I am not the CRT (Critical Race Theory) Boogeyman. I am the first African American to assume the role of Principal at my current school in its 25-year history, and I am keenly aware of how much fear this strikes in the hearts of a small minority who would much rather things go back to the way they used to be.”
A few days later, a parent complained to the district about a photo Whitfield had posted on social media that showed him and his wife, who is White, in an embrace, celebrating their wedding anniversary.
“Is this the Dr. Whitfield we want as an example for our students?” the parent asked in an email that Whitfield recounted on Facebook. The district asked Whitfield to remove the photo to avoid further controversy, KXAS-TV reported.
Whitfield was told by school administrators to take down photos on Facebook of him and his wife embracing on a beach in 2019. Although he hid them in his privacy settings, those same photos were circulated by parents during the controversy.
According to the Post, more than a dozen of Whitfield’s students showed up outside the school in August to defend the principal as parents called for his termination.
NBC DFW reports that the school’s Superintendent Robin Ryan sent a letter to parents on Monday with no specifics as to why the principal was suspended.
“Once they step out of line to attack our principal, people sit here and stay silent and do nothing. They’re his bosses and they sit silent as he gets harassed,” said Sean Vo, one of the students supporting the principal, according to NBC DFW.
Stetson, the man who called Whitfield out by name in the meeting, recently lost a school board election in the district, NBC notes.
“I was not given any clear reasoning behind the decision and was not given a timetable regarding further steps,” Whitfield said in a Facebook message to the Post. “I was simply told that it was in the best interest of the district.” Whitfield believes this is all happening because the district is upset about his views on race.
Read more about what Critical Race Theory actually is here.
If you think systemic racism is really a conspiracy theory, The Root has an article for that, too.