In June 2019, shortly after James Whitfield, a black educator, was hired as the principal of a middle school in Colleyville, Texas, a school district administrator called and asked him to post photos of him and his wife on Facebook. who is white and hugs each other intimately on a beach.
Wondering why someone had unearthed ten-year-old pictures of the couple celebrating their wedding anniversary in Mexico, Dr. Whitfield, however, by changing the settings to “Just me”.
But the photos have now resurfaced amid a racism controversy that erupted in the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District after Dr. Whitfield posted a Facebook post about the request on Saturday. Some publicly called for Dr. Whitfield citing unrelated news invoking race while others circulated a petition in support of his work.
When Dr. Whitfield, 43, 2019 asked what was wrong with the photos: “The answer was ‘nothing,'” he recalled in an interview on Wednesday. “Then they said, ‘We just don’t want anything to be stirred up. So if you could take it off, we would be grateful. ‘”
From that moment on, Dr. Whitfield, he felt that race issues would overshadow his tenure as a black educator in the ranks of the district’s public school system.
“I knew what was coming one day,” he said. “I knew a day like this would be here.”
Dr. Whitfield said he wrote the post – the first time he has publicly addressed his situation – because he was unable to remain silent after speaking on July 26 during a previously scheduled board meeting open to residents of the district. has been criticized where he is now the first black headmaster at Colleyville Heritage High School.
At the meeting, Dr. Whitfield’s name has been featured in some of the most pressing racial debates in the United States, including charged discussions on critical racial theory, the protests last summer following the death of George Floyd, and programs to ensure equality and diversity.
“For most of the last year I’ve been told to just ‘get around the fact that there are some racist people’ and ‘just deal with it and stay positive’ every time the racist tropics raised their heads, but I will not be silent any longer, ”wrote Dr. Whitfield.
“I’m not the CRT (Critical Race Theory) boogeyman,” he wrote. “I am the first African American in my 25-year history to take on the role of headmaster at my current school, and I am very aware of the fear this strikes in the hearts of a small minority who would much rather go back. “As they used to be.”
Critical Racial Theory seeks to understand the roots and persistence of racial differences, but some of its opponents insist that the recognition of racism is itself racist. Dr. Whitfield said in the interview that such studies are “doctoral level” and not a framework taught in his school.
In a statement, the district did not respond to the July 26 meeting at which the photos were not discussed, but said the motion to remove them in 2019 should allow for a “smooth transition,” as did Dr . Whitfield was preparing to lead Heritage Middle School.
“If the district becomes aware of a concern on social media, it is our responsibility to review it,” it said. “Some of the photos the district received contained poses that would be questionable to an educator, especially a school principal or administrative agency. It had absolutely nothing to do with racing. “
The district distributed the photos to news organizations upon request.
According to Dr. Whitfield tried the remarks at the board of directors – which he said echoed the exact tone he suspected he would come after being asked to delete the photos – to keep him moving as a black educator standard .
Some speakers who identified themselves as parents complained of a focus on “social justice” in the curriculum or criticized “racial political activism” in the district that covers most of Grapevine and Colleyville and other parts of the Dallas area -Fort Worth includes. One woman parried the “blatant bigotry and hatred” at the meeting and another, who criticized the tone, said there was “racism”.
The only person who mentioned the Headmaster by name at the forum was a man who was introduced as Stetson Clark’s Views and Aims ”by Dr. Whitfield.
He said he was “first made aware of Mr. Whitfield’s extreme views on race” when a friend received a letter from Dr. Whitfield shared, which was broadcast to parents and students last year and which, he said, showed the headmaster’s concern about systemic racism, which Mr Clark described as a “conspiracy theory”.
He was interrupted by a board member who reminded him that it was against policy to name employees. When shouts like “fire him” rang out from the audience, Mr. Clark went on to say that Dr. Whitfield’s letter encourages “all members of our community to become revolutionaries by becoming anti-racists.”
Although Mr. Clark was reprimanded a second time, he raised other objections.
“Because of his extreme views, I ask that a full review of Mr. Whitfield’s tenure in our district be considered and his contract terminated with immediate effect,” continued Mr. Clark, applauding and cheering from some in the audience.
In its statement, the district said that Mr. Clark broke procedures by criticizing an employee by name and would not be allowed to do so again.
In his July 31st Facebook post, Dr. Whitfield on some of the criticisms. He said he sent a note to parents and students about the murder of Mr Floyd, which occurred about a week after he took office. The message said that Mr. Floyd was “added to the ever-growing list of black Americans who lost their lives because of the color of their skin”.
He also responded to Mr. Clark’s complaint about the books he recommended. Dr. Whitfield said he quoted from A Fool’s Errand, a book written by the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and for his support for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the interview, he said he had received “overwhelming support” from parents, students and other educators. By Thursday, more than 1,000 people had signed the #IStandWithDrWhitfield online petition and reinforced its messages on Twitter.
But he said he moved on and focused on a new school year and his nearly 2,000 students from families who speak 54 different languages at home.
“My job is to make them feel welcome and get a good education,” he said.