James Whitfield, a Black educator, said helium was asked by his schoolhouse territory successful 2019 to region Facebook photos of himself and his wife, who is white, embracing connected a beach.
Aug. 5, 2021, 11:18 a.m. ET
In June 2019, soon aft James Whitfield, a Black educator, was hired arsenic the main of a mediate schoolhouse successful Colleyville, Texas, an head with the schoolhouse territory called and asked him to instrumentality down photos connected Facebook that showed him and his wife, who is white, embracing intimately connected a beach.
Puzzled wherefore idiosyncratic had dug up 10-year-old images of the mates celebrating their day successful Mexico, Dr. Whitfield nevertheless complied by changing the settings to “Only Me.” But the photos person present resurfaced amid a contention implicit racism that erupted successful the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District aft Dr. Whitfield wrote a Facebook post connected Saturday astir the request. Some person publically called for Dr. Whitfield to beryllium fired, citing unrelated messages successful which helium invoked race, portion others person circulated a petition successful enactment of his work.
When Dr. Whitfield, 43, asked what was incorrect with the photos, “The effect was ‘nothing,’” helium recalled successful an interrogation connected Wednesday. “Then they proceeded to say: ‘We conscionable don’t privation to get worldly stirred up. So if you could instrumentality it down, we would admit it.’”
From that moment, Dr. Whitfield said, helium had a consciousness that issues of contention would overshadow his tenure arsenic a Black pedagogue rising successful the ranks of the district’s nationalist schoolhouse system.
“I knew what would travel 1 day,” helium said. “I knew a time similar this would beryllium here.”
Dr. Whitfield said helium wrote the station — the archetypal clip helium has addressed his concern publically — due to the fact that helium could nary longer beryllium soundless aft helium was criticized connected July 26 during a antecedently scheduled committee gathering that was unfastened to residents of the district, wherever helium is present the archetypal Black main astatine Colleyville Heritage High School.
At the meeting, Dr. Whitfield recovered himself thrust into immoderate of the astir pressing radical debates successful the United States, including loaded discussions of critical contention theory, past summer’s protests aft the death of George Floyd, and programs meant to guarantee equality and diversity.
“For the amended portion of the past year, I’ve been told repeatedly to conscionable ‘get astir the information that determination are immoderate racist people’ and ‘just woody with it and enactment positive’ each clip the racist tropes reared their heads, but I volition enactment soundless nary longer,” Dr. Whitfield wrote.
“I americium not the CRT (Critical Race Theory) Boogeyman,” helium wrote. “I americium the archetypal African American to presume the relation of Principal astatine my existent schoolhouse successful its 25-year history, and I americium keenly alert of however overmuch fearfulness this strikes successful the hearts of a tiny number who would overmuch alternatively things spell backmost to the mode they utilized to be.”
Critical contention mentation seeks to understand the roots and persistence of radical disparities, but immoderate of its opponents insist that acknowledging racism is itself racist. Dr. Whitfield said successful the interrogation that specified studies are “doctoral level” and are not a model taught astatine his school.
In a statement, the territory did not code the July 26 meeting, astatine which the photographs were not raised, but it said the petition to region them successful 2019 was meant to supply a “smooth transition” conscionable arsenic Dr. Whitfield was preparing to pb Heritage Middle School.
“When a societal media interest is brought to the attraction of the district, we person a work to reappraisal it,” it said. “Some of the photos the territory received contained poses that are questionable for an educator, particularly a main oregon administrator. It had perfectly thing to bash with race.”
The territory distributed the photos to quality organizations erstwhile asked astir them.
According to Dr. Whitfield, the remarks astatine the committee gathering — which helium said struck conscionable the benignant of code helium had suspected would travel his mode aft the petition to delete the photos — sought to clasp him, arsenic a Black educator, to a antithetic standard.
Some speakers who identified themselves arsenic parents complained of a “social justice” absorption successful the program oregon criticized “political activism” concerning contention successful the district, which includes astir of Grapevine and Colleyville, arsenic good arsenic different parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A pistillate pushed backmost astatine the “blatant bigotry and hate” astatine the gathering and another, captious of the tone, said “racism exists.”
The lone idiosyncratic to notation the main by sanction astatine the forum was a antheral introduced arsenic Stetson Clark, who said helium and “many” others were acrophobic astir the “implementation of critical contention theory successful our district,” which helium said aligned with “the views and goals” of Dr. Whitfield.
He said helium was “first made alert of Mr. Whitfield’s utmost views connected race” erstwhile a person shared a missive written by Dr. Whitfield that was sent to parents and students past twelvemonth that helium said showed the main was acrophobic astir systemic racism, which Mr. Clark described arsenic a “conspiracy theory.”
He was interrupted by a committee member, who reminded him that it was against argumentation to mention employees by name. As shouts of “fire him” erupted from the audience, Mr. Clark pressed on, saying Dr. Whitfield’s missive was “encouraging each members of our assemblage to go revolutionaries by becoming antiracists.”
Though Mr. Clark was reprimanded a 2nd time, helium mentioned different objections.
“Because of his utmost views, I inquire that a afloat reappraisal of Mr. Whitfield’s tenure successful our territory beryllium examined and that his declaration beryllium terminated effectual immediately,” Mr. Clark continued, prompting hearty applause and whoops of support from immoderate successful the audience.
In its statement, the territory said Mr. Clark had violated procedures by criticizing an worker by sanction and it would not beryllium allowed again.
In his July 31 Facebook post, Dr. Whitfield responded to immoderate of the criticisms. He said helium had sent a connection to parents and students astir Mr. Floyd’s murder, which took spot astir a week aft helium became principal. The connection said Mr. Floyd “added to the ever-growing database of Black Americans who person mislaid their lives due to the fact that of the colour of their skin.”
He besides responded to Mr. Clark’s ailment astir books helium has recommended. Dr. Whitfield said helium has quoted from “A Fool’s Errand,” a publication by the founding manager of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and for his enactment of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the interrogation helium said helium had received an “overwhelming outpouring of support” from parents, students and different educators. By Thursday, much than 1,000 radical had signed the online petition #IStandWithDrWhitfield and bolstered his messages connected Twitter.
But helium said helium had moved on, focusing connected a caller schoolhouse twelvemonth and his astir 2,000 students from families who talk implicit 54 antithetic languages astatine home.
“My occupation is to marque definite that they consciousness invited and that they are going to get a beardown education,” helium said.