Last week, Shanon Terry, Lawrence County school board chair and chair of the county's Republican Party, posted a picture of a GOP elephant on Facebook with Ku Klux Klan hoods portrayed through the legs. While Terry has apologized and claimed the post was a mistake, the image is a painful reminder that unintentional racism can cut just as deep as intentional racism. In a community that is struggling with its history of racism, the NAACP Lawrence County branch has been working hard to improve racial relations and fight against discrimination. As the National Director of Education Innovation and Research for the NAACP, I applaud the Lawrence County branch of the NAACP for fighting against racism.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), Lawrence County Public Schools in Moulton, AL is 72 percent white and 11 percent Black. However, Black students account for 23 percent of all out-of-school suspensions and 30 percent of expulsions. Contrarily, Calculus enrollment in the district is 100 percent white and 0 percent students of color, according to the CRDC.
During a time when many members of the GOP are gutting diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging initiatives, under the guise of anti-Critical Race Theory legislation, we cannot afford to have accidental or implicit racism among people making decisions that impact Black students.
Make no mistake, posting Ku Klux Klan hoods is not a simple mistake, and it is not disconnected from the racial disparities in suspensions and college prep that Lawrence County Public Schools is experiencing. Simply removing the image is not enough. The implicit racism that makes a GOP school board leader oblivious to racist images, is the same implicit racism that causes Black students to be suspended and not recommended for Calculus.
We need more than an apology. We need accountability, we need a thoughtful acknowledgment of the racism permeating the district, and we need real change and justice for Black learners in Lawrence County.