Democrats should be getting the message they’ve gone too far when the party’s own members are quitting.
That’s the lesson from a school board controversy in Palm Beach County, Florida, where the phrase “white advantage” in an “equity statement” by the board stirred up fury among some of the school district’s parents.
When board members listened to the parents and got rid of the phrase, the local Democratic Party took aim at the board — and two of the board members struck back by quitting in very public ways.
The saga began on May 5 when, according to The Palm Beach Post, the Palm Beach County School Board passed the statement, which was your standard five-paragraph pledge of fealty to critical race theory.
The declaration read that the school system “is committed to dismantling structures rooted in white advantage and transforming our system by hearing and elevating underrepresented voices, sharing power, recognizing and eliminating bias, and redistributing resources to provide equitable outcomes.”
At a board meeting May 19, there was backlash from parents, the Post reported.
“Your statement is dividing us, and it incites racism,” said Jessica Martinez, a mother of two students, according to the newspaper. “Being a parent of both a Hispanic and a Caucasian student, this equity statement leads me to believe you’re viewing my children’s academics by the color of their skin or their ethnic background.”
Another parent, Amanda Silvestri, meanwhile, said she “will not allow my children to continue their education in a school district that promotes racism.”
“Equity, as you are calling it, is a political view and it is racist,” she told the board, according to the Post. “You mention ‘dismantling white advantage,’ which is an opinion. None of this despicable, political, racist nonsense should be pushed on innocent children and has absolutely no business being taught in schools.”
Three weeks after the statement was adopted, on May 26 — after another acrimonious meeting — the board decided to revoke the statement in a 4-3 vote due to the divisiveness of the “white advantage” language, the Post reported.
The new statement isn’t exactly weak porridge. From the School District of Palm Beach County’s website: “Achieving racial equity requires proactive and continuous investment in historically marginalized groups who have endured centuries of systemic oppression. The School District of Palm Beach County is committed to transforming our system by hearing and elevating under-represented voices, sharing power, recognizing and eliminating bias, and distributing resources to provide equitable outcomes.”
It wasn’t that the dissenting voices necessarily disagreed with critical race theory-tastic bent of the original statement, mind you. However, they were also elected to serve the school board where parents were both divided and distrustful because the board claimed it was “committed to dismantling structures rooted in white advantage.”
“We can clearly see after today’s meeting if we don’t do something to take away the words that caused all this distrust, we’re not going to be able to go forward,” school board chair Frank Barbieri said after the May 26 vote, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Board member Karen Brill, who recommended the phrase be removed, said the language in the equity statement “have to be words people understand.”
“You need to understand that it is dividing the community, it is polarizing,” Brill said, according to the Post. “Those are the words that are a trigger, and I want this community to embrace the work that we are doing.”
The four members who voted to nix the original statement — Barbieri, Brill, Marcia Andrews and Barbara McQuinn — were all registered Democrats, although school board races are nonpartisan. While Brill may have wanted the community to embrace the board’s work, don’t expect the Palm Beach County Democratic Party to embrace the board’s vote.
On Thursday, the county’s Democratic executive committee voted resoundingly to censure the four. The statement of censure, put forward by state Rep. Omari Hardy, said the decision to amend the statement “runs counter to our Democratic values,” according to the Post.
“These four board members, all of whom are registered Democrats, have lost the trust and confidence of many activists and leaders of color whose enthusiastic support for the Democratic Party has been — and will continue to be — critical to [the] party’s success in Palm Beach County and in Florida more broadly,” the resolution stated.
Hilariously, it also said that “we — as individuals and as a body — expect all elected officials who are registered Democrats to have the courage required to actively combat systemic racism, even when doing so may be politically disadvantageous.” Not the courage of their own convictions, the courage of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.
Of the roughly 200 committee members present, 81 percent voted to censure the four, with 14 percent opposing it and 5 percent abstaining, the Post reported.
“There must be consequences for quailing to the racist mob instead of sticking with people of color who give their heart and soul to not just the party but the party’s causes,” Hardy told the Post in an interview last week (apparently unembarrassed over setting a racially motivated mob against members of his own political party).
Hardy just so happens to be running for Congress for the seat left vacant by Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April. This could perhaps explain why this sounds like cynical preening aimed at the most rabid parts of his party’s base.
And if there’s any doubt about how leftist he actually is, check out this Twitter video, and get it in his own words:
Why do we need more unapologetic progressive Democrats in Congress?
Let me tell you & if you agree, RT & join our campaign at https://t.co/KC8LN0xblF 👊🏾
This special election is our chance. pic.twitter.com/mbRFEyFWaT
— Rep. Omari Hardy (@OmariJHardy) April 28, 2021
In response to the censure vote, Barbieri and McQuinn left the party.
“I do not answer to the Democratic Party simply because there is a ‘D’ after my name,” Barbieri told the Post via text.
“Since the Democratic Executive Committee members by their vote apparently believe I answer to them simply because of that ‘D,’ I will make it less stressful for them when I don’t dance to their drumbeat. I am replacing the ‘D’ with an ‘I’ and will continue to do what I’ve always done — make my decisions independently of partisan politics.”
McQuinn, a former Republican who switched to Democrat this year, according to the Post, took the same approach.
“Just changed to independent,” she told the Post by text. “Words can’t describe how disgusted I am with bipartisanship!”
“I believe school board is not party specific because our students live in homes of all parties,” the text added. “We are supposed to do what’s best for students to [the] best of our ability.”
Not to the Palm Beach County Democratic Party — or the Democratic Party nationally, for that matter.
So what if this divided parents in Palm Beach County and was best replaced by a statement that was nearly materially identical? It didn’t reckon with “white advantage” enough. There was no anti-white racism anymore.
This ceased to be about the students the moment it became about drawing a line in the sand for the new Democrat wokeness — and the school board members decided to back away from that line.
All four school board members who voted to change this deserve to be commended.
But Barbieri and McQuinn deserve extra credit. Calling out bullies deserves that.
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