San Francisco school board’s latest crisis: Racist tweets


SAN FRANCISCO — The vice president of San Francisco’s school board is under fire for tweets she wrote in 2016 that said Asian Americans use “white supremacist” thinking to get ahead and were racist toward Black students.

The tweets are at the center of a new crisis facing the scandal-plagued Board of Education, which has been sued, criticized and mocked over the past few months.

Board member Alison Collins was the focus of a heated public meeting Tuesday evening attended online by more than 1,000 people, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Many callers demanded Collins step down, echoing calls by two board members and dozens of officials who have denounced the tweets as racist and anti-Asian. Mayor London Breed also joined the chorus, saying “our students and our API community deserve better.”

Collins told the meeting she wanted to again express her “sincere and heartfelt apologies.” In an earlier statement, she apologized for the hurt caused by the tweets, which critics have called a non-apology.

The posts resurfaced last week amid a surge of violence and harassment against Asian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the country. They are the latest embarrassment for San Francisco’s school board, which has prided itself on putting racial equity at the top of its agenda.

In the midst of the pandemic, the school board faced national criticism for a plan to rename 44 of its schools — including one named for Abraham Lincoln and another for Sen. Dianne Feinstein — that it said honored people with discriminatory legacies. The plan was subsequently put on hold after an avalanche of criticism saying the board should focus on reopening schools, which are still closed despite the city’s low transmission rates, rather than renaming them. The board also bowed to complaints that its process to select which schools should be renamed was flawed.

The city of San Francisco then took the dramatic step of suing the board and the school district to force the reopening of schools. Under a plan recently negotiated with its labor unions, San Francisco plans to phase-in the reopening of elementary school classrooms in mid-April.

The board has also faced criticism for a plan to end merit-based admissions to the city’s top public high school, Lowell, and use the same lottery-based system that admits students to other high schools.

Collins was a strong proponent of Lowell High School dropping its merit-based admissions process, which she called racist. About 55% of Lowell students are Asian, even though Asians make up just 8% of the city’s population. About 17% of students are white, 11% are Latino and just 2% are Black.

The 2016 tweets were made public by a group of parents who have started an effort to recall three of the board’s seven members, including Collins.

In the tweets, Collins, who is Black, wrote that she was looking to “combat anti-black racism in the Asian community at my daughters’ mostly Asian (American) school.”

Many Asian Americans, she wrote, “believe they benefit from the ‘model minority’ BS’” and “use white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.‘”

Near the end of the thread, Collins called for Asian Americans to speak out against President Donald Trump’s policies, saying that her daughter stepped in to stop Asian American boys who were bullying a Latino student.

“Don’t Asian Americans know they are on his list as well?” Collins wrote, using asterisks in place of a racial slur. “Do they think they won’t be deported? profiled? beaten? Being a house n(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)r is still being a n(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)r. You’re still considered ‘the help.’”

The two school board members who have called on Collins to resign — Jenny Lam and Faauuga Moliga — are the board’s only Asian American or Pacific Islander members. The others have condemned the tweets but say they support a “restorative process.”

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