SFNAACP fails black students
The SFNAACP recently put out an editorial opposing the school board recalls, authored by their attorney, Peter Graham Cohn. For five long paragraphs, Cohn waxes histrionic, railing on non-sequiturs like lynching, voting rights, redlining, segregation, COVID-19, vaccines, masking, Trump’s false claims about winning the last election, the capitol riot and book banning. He refers to “false narrative(s)” eleven times in a tortured effort to link the vociferous calls for Commissioner Alison Collins to resign for tweeting that Asians are “house n****rs” to the unrelated topics above. It remains unclear which part of that narrative was false, since Commissioner Collins not only refused to delete her anti-Asian tweetstorm at the time but also proudly posted a screenshot following her stint in Twitter jail.
One might think that the author of such a long screed against so-called false narratives would avoid promoting his own. But one would be wrong. It gives me great pleasure to examine Cohn’s false narratives and refute them today.
False narrative: The recall targets school board commissioners for wanting to “address educational equity” or for “mere policy differences.”
Recall supporters would be over the moon if the school board would focus on improving the metric showcasing that very lack of equity – the achievement gap!
Keeping public schools closed when private schools had been open for a semester or more is the antithesis of educational equity. Distance learning hurt disadvantaged students the most: they were falling even further behind while the school board fiddled with vanity projects like school names and minimized well-documented learning loss as merely “different learning experiences.”
It isn’t a mere difference of opinion motivating recall supporters, but the failure of the Board of Education to focus on education. Instead, they spent time and legal resources on their political pet projects. How does keeping schools closed, painting over a mural, changing school names or changing admissions to a top magnet school help close the worst achievement gap in the state? It doesn’t. Mayor London Breed summed it up in a statement last fall: “Look, I believe in equity…. But the fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our City. Not the name of a school.”
False narrative: Lowell High was not open to all children of San Francisco, and to “promote equity and racial justice in San Francisco Unified School District” it was necessary for the school board to “modify the Lowell High School admissions policy so that Lowell might be more racially/ethnically inclusive.”
Lowell High was open to any student with the necessary academic qualifications. Lowell’s merit-based admissions did not consider (much less discriminate based on) race. To get into Lowell, a student needed only to attend school consistently, do their assigned work, and study enough to achieve good grades and pass their proficiency exams. All of that can be accomplished by students of any race.
When they call academic merit-based admissions policies “racist” or “segregationist,” the SFNAACP and Commissioner Collins imply innate racial inferiority. They patronizingly tell black and Latino students “We know you can’t compete on academics, so we will change the admissions policy to help you.” But removing merit-based admissions doesn’t help anyone: either unprepared students will fail, or academic standards will be dragged down to the lowest common denominator.
False narrative: It is unnecessary to recall the Commissioners Collins, Lopez and Moliga because they are up for election in November of 2022.
The school board will need to replace the superintendent well before November. Recall supporters do not want school board members who specialize in racial grievance to hire a new superintendent with the same unproductive mindset. Also, who can predict when Commissioner Collins will decide to turn the Board of Education into an international joke again with another frivolous lawsuit? Who wants to gamble when the Board of Education’s fiscal mismanagement already put the SFUSD at risk of state takeover?
False narrative: San Francisco Board of Education policy regarding Lowell High admissions was not driven by anti-Asian sentiment.
If the school board’s goal was truly to improve equity and diversity, or to fight white supremacy, Ruth Asawa School of the Arts (RASOTA) would have been the target. RASOTA students are whiter and wealthier than Lowell students. It has a 2.5x “over-representation” of white students and the smallest proportion of low income students in the district. Additionally, Latino and Asian students are underrepresented by 50%. Having a good shot at passing RASOTA’s stringent merit-based portfolio and audition evaluations requires years of expensive private arts lessons. By targeting Lowell and ignoring RASOTA, the school board showed their true motivation was anti-Asian racism. Did the board try to change RASOTA’s admissions to admit more Asian students? No. Selectively targeting merit-based admissions only when it means decreasing Asian enrollment is clearly anti-Asian.
False narrative: It is a “petty and false political narrative” that Commissioner Collins is anti-Asian and has enacted anti-Asian policies while on the school board. The “new injuries and profound pain” inflicted on the AAPI community are actually the fault of those who revealed her racism to the public.
The only person to blame for the fallout from racist tweets is the author of those tweets. No one else. Maybe we should ask Asians. Which part was the problem? The racist tweets from an elected official? Or the fact that we are now aware of Commissioner Collins’ anti-Asian motivations? Cohn also wants Asians to know that he thinks it’s petty that we’re rejecting an elected official just because she calls us “house n****rs” who simp for white supremacy. Because the black community would gracefully accept such rhetoric from their elected officials, right?
False narrative: The SFNAACP “has always advocated for the rights of all students — including Asian American children — to an equal educational opportunity.”
The SFNAACP does not advocate for Asian students, and it never has — it is a nakedly tribalist organization which supports policies with detrimental outcomes for other racial groups that it would never accept for black people. They’re fine with an admissions policy which shunts aside better qualified Asian candidates in favor of less qualified black students, though they would decry it as “systemic racism” if the races were swapped.
Let’s do a thought experiment: suppose black enrollment at a popular high school dropped by over 10% from the previous year due to a new admissions policy, while Asian enrollment grew by 77%. Would the SFNAACP be supportive of this policy? Now imagine that a San Francisco politician referred to black people as “house n****rs'' and ask yourself whether the SFNAACP would support that politician. If the SFNAACP advocates for Asians, why aren’t they demanding a change in RASOTA admissions to help the school “better reflect the diversity of the city”?
Let’s be honest: the SFNAACP supports a racist double standard. Pathetically, SFNAACP’s divisive positions don’t even benefit black students. Despite decades of SFNAACP lawsuits and advocacy, the current performance of black students in San Francisco public schools is abysmal, with fewer than 14% able to do math at grade level:
Artificial racial balancing at Lowell High is an insult to everyone and, furthermore, it doesn’t address the root causes of “underrepresentation”: poor academic preparation and a high chronic absenteeism rate. Black students of San Francisco desperately need intervention that actually improves educational outcomes, not superficial gestures like getting 19 more of them into Lowell High while thousands more are unable to read at grade level. By denouncing the school board recall and defending a known anti-Asian racist and her anti-Asian policies, the SFNAACP has shown itself to be an irrelevant political machine which privileges cronyism and tribalism above the education of students.