Tennessee superintendent Bryan Johnson issued a formal apology to the Hamilton County community Wednesday after a staff development presentation about “white privilege” generated controversy for weeks online.
Former NFL player Robert Jackson lectured teachers about their implicit racism during a session over three weeks ago, prompting some who attended to complain online and post images of the offensive presentation to social media, WCRB reports.
Johnson is now addressing the controversy after the issue erupted in disputes between school board members at a recent meeting, though he offered no apologies for the actual white privilege theory presented, only that it “caused a distraction.”
The statement, three weeks after complaints first surfaced, follows just days after the Chatttanoogan reported Jackson was paid $5,000 from taxpayers to promote the distorted perspective on racism.
“To accelerate success and continue to turn the corner as a system, we must understand the potential perspectives of our students across communities. We also know that we must hold all children to high expectations. That was the key message of the presentation that has generated so much conversation. The schools that were a part of the training serve students that are 90+ percent free and reduced lunch and have experienced challenges with student achievement gains,” Johnson wrote in a prepared statement.
“As a community, approaching our schools that have chronically underperformed the say way that we have for decades and yet expecting a different result does not make sense,” he wrote. “We have acknowledged on multiple occasions that we will do a better job of vetting third-party, external material. We hate that this caused a distraction from the great work being done in our school district.
“For that, we do apologize to our teachers, leaders, and students who should be and continue to be our focus.”
No apology to parents for denigrating their race. No apology for educators who were labeled part of the problem because of their alleged racism. Slides from the Aug. 2 presentation posed online by Patrick Hampton, member of the local group “Hamilton Flourishes,” alleged “white privilege is both a legacy and a cause of racism.”
“White privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases,” according to Jackson.
Another slide offered examples of white privilege: “less likely to be followed, interrogated or searched by law enforcement; skin tone will not affect their credit score or financial responsibility; when accused of crime, portrayed as good person; don’t lose opportunities when mistakes are made.”
Another slide on racism alleged “people of color cannot be racist because they lack the institutional power to affect white lives.”
The presentation also claimed “even if minorities sometimes complain about whites, such complaints serve as coping mechanisms to withstand racism rather than actual anti-white bias,” and “even when memories express or practice racism against whites, they are not racists.”
“This is what Hamilton County employees and teachers had to sit through,” Hampton tweeted. “This is called professional development. The liberal left is running the school systems and pushing their agenda onto our children with our tax dollars.”
The controversy in Hamilton County follows similar public backlash to white privilege teacher trainings in numerous other school systems across the country that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the last decade, EAGnews reports.