Two school board members, both women of color, have been targeted in a Facebook page launched Friday with loaded imagery of swastikas, bloodied gloves, and photos ablaze.
The page, dubbed “No2racebaiting,” features photos of school board members Gabriela Lopez and Alison Collins with swastikas photoshopped on their foreheads and red x-marks across their faces with the text “NO TO NAZISM IN SFUSD.”
The page was launched after the Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to temporarily end the merit-based admissions process for Lowell High School due to coronavirus. At that meeting, Collins and Lopez were vocal in their support for consideration of permanently ending the selective process. The discussion opened up a larger, often ugly conversation about race in schools.
“This is a part of public office, which is unfortunate,” Collins said. “At the same time, it’s interesting that we all voted the same and yet, me and Gabriela are the ones getting targeted. The two student delegates spoke up but Shavonne [Hines-Foster], who’s dark-skinned, is the one receiving death threats. We’re still a microcosm of our country’s culture even if we like to think we’re not.”
In one post, a printed version of that photo is held by a hand wearing a glove with red splatters that resembled blood, set on fire over a trash can.
Other posts call the two women “braindead California trolls [who] are obsessed with race and skin color” who are “promoting racism glorifying one group and racism against others.”
Be cautious before reading and looking on:
This kind of behavior is the TIP of the iceberg when it comes to the veiled threats, misogyny, and harassment that is particularly aimed at the two women of color on the Board of Ed. pic.twitter.com/0IFaNCpEVu
— Gabriela López (@lopez4schools) October 24, 2020
Andrew Tang, 24, who describes himself as an SFUSD graduate, has owned up to the page’s creation, to the Examiner and on Twitter. Tang, who wrote about the Lowell proposal for a volunteer-run, Beverly Hills-connected site, San Francisco News, said that he meant no violence by the posts.
”It’s a form of peaceful protest, in my opinion,” Tang said. “I think that their behavior in some ways can emulate that of the Nazis. People burn things to show their disgust of things. I don’t hate anyone, I don’t believe in shaming anybody.”
Tang said he launched the page to raise awareness about what he sees as an issue of anti-white and Asian racist comments made in the case of merit-based admissions at Lowell.
“I would like to go to the way things were before the Black Lives Matter protests,” Tang said. “Since [George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s] deaths, a lot of people have become very obsessed with race and skin color. They’re putting out a lot of propaganda. I think I’m just responding accordingly.”
When asked if he was concerned the imagery could give off a violent impression and inspire others, he said he would edit his posts to reiterate that he came in peace. He did not commit to removing the imagery.
“You’re holding a bloodied glove and burning our faces, I don’t know how that doesn’t show violence on your end,” Lopez said. “I’m very open to criticism and I’ve always been vocal about communicating with people, but there is a line. To me, this is finally a line that’s been crossed.”
There are many who are taking a very passive approach. I am taking a more abrasive approach. I think both methods are appropriate. I need wisdom and discernment and it will grow as this evil and chaos continues.
— Ancient Civilization (@atang1200) October 23, 2020
Some people have attempted to report the page to Facebook but were told it doesn’t violate Facebook’s community standards, Lopez said. Facebook was not immediately available for comment.
The district learned about the posts late Friday afternoon and is assisting the board members in responding while notifying authorities, said SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick.
Collins added that she and Lopez have been targeted over other controversial topics like the George Washington High School murals. She feels that sharp criticism from Mayor London Breed last week and some supervisors earlier on Friday regarding school reopening has also escalated things in recent weeks.
Public commenters also cut off Hines-Foster when she spoke about racism against Black students like herself at Lowell, where she is a senior. She has since received harassment online, which she said interrupted her schooling. Board members and several other public commenters denounced the behavior, with Board member Rachel Norton noting that Collins and Lopez are often targeted as well.
“When you name racism, you sometimes get called a racist, that’s a pattern,” Collins said. “It’s really important to name those things. When you let those things lie, they’re poking to see where the line is.”
Update, Saturday, Oct. 24: The Facebook page is no longer accessible after Tang apologized on Twitter early Saturday morning.
“I actually thought about this and now have the conviction that what I did was indeed offensive and could encourage unpeaceful behavior,” Tang wrote. “I do apologize now. I hope this tension may be resolved. Regardless of what hurtful things people said, this is not how I should respond.”