SFNAACP Urgently Calls Upon the People of San Franicisco to Vote Against the Petition to Recall Members of the San Franicisco Board of Education
This editorial by Attorney Peter Graham Cohn representing the SFNAACP is shared with permission from the Sun Reporter.
From its founding in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and its later affiliate units including the San Francisco NAACP (SFNAACP) have often been called upon and compelled to assist the Nation in correcting and eliminating false narratives that have had catastrophic consequences for our communities whether they have been at the national or local levels. This consequential history included bringing the Nation to an understanding that it was neither morally nor legally right to lynch African American or other people of color as Saturday afternoon entertainment. Similarly, other false narratives that the NAACP had to address was that it was not ok to deny people of color the equal opportunities for education, employment, housing, health care, public accommodations and voting rights. If these false narratives were allowed to stand, it was predictable to see how the Nation could so easily drift back into other forms of mob, police or other governmentally sanctioned violence against people of color or other marginalized groups.
We have certainly all seen and experienced the profound damage that the more recent big lies have caused our nation and the world. when we were confronted with a global pandemic, the leader of the free world in 2019 chose not to take the path to protect public health but elected to pursue the path of a false and anti-science political narrative. The tragic results not only significantly contributed to the deaths of some 800,000 people in the United States and millions of lives lost worldwide but also to the creation of a most divisive false narrative that taking the simplest of preventive public health measures (masking, social distancing and vaccinating) is a deprivation of one’s personal liberty. The predictable result of this public health false narrative has not only divided family and friends but also aroused individuals to not only threaten public officials but also motivated some individuals to take up arms against them.
With this backdrop, it was easy to see the dire consequences of the ultimate big lie. Contrary to all the evidence as established by the federal and state election oversight officials and judicial officers, the Trumpian false and unfounded view that the presidential election was stolen from him in 2020 has caused immeasurable harm to the people ofour nation in the course of the January 6, 2021 deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and its aftermath. Like the pandemic big lie, it has torn apart families and communities and is seeking to undermine voting rights at the federal, state and local levels.
Similarly, we have seen false narratives at the local educational levels that have resulted in an assault on educators and school board members who have spoken up and advanced policies on racial equity in our public schools and universities. The false narrative or favorite moniker is to demonize them as “critical race theorists” who need to be removed from our educational institutions. Additionally, opponents of these advocates for education equity and inclusion argue that any books or scholarly references should be banned and the true history regarding the adverse role of race in education should not be a part of our public school system. In the course of pursuing this anti-intellectual and false course, they call for the discharge of educators as well as the resignation or recall school board members who have dared to address educational equity in our schools and our nation.
This is a direction or path that is beneath the City of St. Francis. Earlier in the year, when there was a political move to force the resignation of San Francisco School Board Commissioner Alison Collins based on a false narrative, the SFNAACP was compelled to submit an article to the Sun Reporter Newspaper setting forth in great detail as to why such an action was unjustified. The Sun Reporter — whose motto under the late Dr. Carlton Goodlett and today under Amelia Ashley Ward is — ”Dedicated to the cause of the people ~that no good cause shall lack a champion and evil shall not thrive unopposed” — chose to publish it on March 25, 2021. As a result, the forced resignation initiative was defeated.
In a similar way, the San Francisco NAACP believes that the upcoming February 15, 2022, San Francisco Board of Education Recall Election of Board President Gabriela Lopez and Commissioners Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga is unjustified and should be opposed because Commissioners should not be removed because of a mix of policy differences and false narratives. The SFNAACP discussed the issues involved in the recall and voted overwhelmineg to oppose the recall election at its November 21, 2021 Branch meeting at Third Baptist Church.
The policy differences around certain public education issues in the SFUSD included: 1) when and how should the SFUSD safely reopen in the course of a global pandemic; 2) the renaming of certain schools in the SFUSD because the namesakes had purported connections with racial discrimination; 3) what to do with the adverse racial depictions in the front wall murals at Washington High School; and 4) the Board vote to modify the Lowell High School admissions policy so that Lowell might be more racially/ethnically inclusive and to conduct an Equity Audit in partnership with the University of Kentucky College of Education, NAACP and the community to address issues of concern that African American and Latino students and educational advocates had raised about the culture of Lowell.
While one might differ about how best to approach any of the above issues, it is within the authority and jurisdiction of the SF Board of Education to address these type issues, among others, as they might arise during the course of the Commissioners‘ service on the Board. However, there is no justification for removing commissioners based upon mere policy differences and their efforts to promote equity and racial justice in the San Francisco Unified School District.
When one carefully and critically examines the timing of the recall petition, it was filed on February 19, 2021 in retaliation for the February 9, 2021 Board’s 5 — 2 vote which changed the Lowell admissions process to be more inclusive of all the diverse racial/ethnic communities of San Francisco. As the SFNAACP has historically asserted and advocated, ALL the public schools and resources of the SFUSD — including Lowell High School — belong to ALL the children of San Francisco and should be enjoyed by them.
Commissioners Lopez, Collins and Moliga’s voices were singled out for silencing and recall because they were elected in November of 2018 and their terms run through November of 2022. Instead of letting these three Commissioners complete their terms and let the voters decide at a regular election within the year, there was a planned political initiative to remove them from office in an unnecessary special election.
From the Mayor’s Office to the Board of Supervisors, to the City Attorney’s Office and to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, the governmental leadership of the City has sadly demonstrated that they lacked profiles in courage in fairly dealing with the issues surrounding the SF Board of Education. They joined the false narratives about these public servants and the frenzy in the media and internet to remove the Commissioners.
They accepted the false narrative that San Francisco Board of Education policy was driven by anti-Asian sentiment — which is simply not true. We need to keep in mind that these three commissioners — an African American female, a Latina female and a Pacific Islander male — all volunteered to answer the honorable call to public service on behalf of the children of the City. They do not deserve to have their voices unceremoniously silenced through a recall — which is a phenomenon that we are observing across the country. The SFNAACP is in a unique position to assert this because, in its long history of over 90 years of public service in San Francisco, it has always advocated for the rights of all students — including Asian American children — to an equal educational opportunity.
The governmental leadership sadly permitted the March 16, 2021 tragic murders in Atlanta to be falsely conﬂated with the policy choices of the San Francisco Board of Education with respect to its decisions regarding racial justice and inclusion in the SFUSD. As a result, a national tragedy was promptly used as a subterfuge to challenge the equity change in the admissions process at Lowell High School and to support the February recall petition of 3 of the 5 Board members — who supported the social justice change there. If the other two Commissioners Matt Alexander and Mark Sanchez had not been recently reelected in the course of the November 2020 election, the proponents of the recall would have had their names on the ballot as well. This is not a public policy result that is good for San Francisco.
The gravamen of giving credence to petty and false political narratives and unleashing them is several fold: 1) wittingly or unwittingly — such actions actually inflict new injuries and profound pain upon the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in the SFUSD and the City where they did not exist; 2) they falsely lead members of the AAPl community to believe that SFUSD and Board policies are based upon racial animosity or hatred towards them; 3) they falsely tell AAPI residents that there are people in public service actively working against their interests; 4) they create a feeding frenzy in the community and on the internet to drive public servants from office by intimidation, threats, resignation or recall; 5) they debase the kinds of constructive conversations that should occur at school board and other public meetings and substitute great incivility — the likes of which we are unfortunately seeing across California and the United States; 6) the result of this incivility and personal assaults prompts good and well — intentioned people and candidates to avoid or leave public service; 7) they falsely suggest that street crimes in SF are related to Board policies and create a gap in the historic harmonious relationship between communities of color in San Francisco; and 8) these are all profound and real harms that are inflicted anew on the AAPI community — even by some who claim to be advocates for the community — and they are clearly unworthy of the best traditions of San Francisco.
The San Francisco NAACP calls upon other people and organizations of goodwill to vote against the February 15, 2022, recall of San Francisco Board of Education Commissioners Collins, Lopez and Moliga and to remind all eligible voters that they can vote early at San Francisco City Hall beginning on January 18, 2022. Let’s let our voices and votes heal and unite our City and bring back civility to our public school and other City forums.
Attorney Peter Graham Cohn has represented the SFNAACP Branch and the public school children of San Francisco in the San Francisco school desegregation case in federal court from 1978 — 2006. He has worked with the national NAACP — including the late Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond — for over 45 years at the national, regional, state and local levels. He has also been an advisor and counsel to the SFNAACP Branch since the 1970’s. He can be reached at: pgcohn at comcast dot net.
Published — December 16, 2021 — Sun Reporter Newspaper