Elected officials including Mayor London Breed and most members of the Board of Supervisors pressured a San Francisco school board member to resign Saturday after a series of derogatory tweets from 2016 about Asian Americans resurfaced, causing widespread anger and outrage.
In the Dec. 4, 2016 tweets, board Vice President Alison Collins described racist incidents her daughter, then in middle school, had experienced and complained that members of the Asian community did not seem willing to speak out against anti-Black racism or former President Donald Trump or to support the Black Lives Matter movement. She stated that “Many Asian Am. believe they benefit from the ‘model minority’ BS,” referenced “Tiger Moms” and ended with a tweet referring to Asians with the slur “house n*****.”
In a statement issued Saturday, nearly two dozen current and former elected officials, as well as teachers union president Susan Solomon, called on Collins to resign, referring to the tweets as “hate statements and speeches” that “perpetuate gross and harmful stereotypes.”
“The mindset represented in Alison Collins’ tweets has no place in City leadership and especially not in leading our public schools, where 33% are Asian American,” the officials said in a joint statement. “School board policy cannot be made through the lens of anti-Asianness. Someone who denigrates broad swathes of our City’s people has no place leading our schools and representing our students.”
Collins, who was elected to the San Francisco Unified School District board in 2018, apologized Saturday for the tweets in a Medium post, but did not offer to resign. She said the statements were taken out of context, “both of that specific moment and the nuance of the conversation that took place.”
“But whether my tweets are being taken out of context or not, only one thing matters right now. And that is the pain our Asian American brothers and sisters and siblings are experiencing,” Collins said. “Words have meaning and impact. I acknowledge that right now, in this moment my words taken out of context can be causing more pain for those who are already suffering. For the pain my words may have caused I am sorry, and I apologize unreservedly.”
The controversy comes at a time of heightened anxiety over anti-Asian attacks and prejudice, and also at a time when the school board is already under intense political pressure from all sides.
Many parents and elected officials have criticized the board for perceived slowness to reopen city schools, while others have been angered by an effort to rename many schools and to change the test-based admissions system at Lowell High School. Lawsuits have been filed over the board’s actions and one group is currently working to place a measure on the ballot that would make it an appointed body, rather than elected, while another is working to recall several board members including Collins.
The tweets were initially posted on social media Thursday night by the recall group, under the header “Commissioner Collins appears biased against Asian Americans.”
The group specifically linked Collins’ statement with the decision to move Lowell to the same lottery-based system used at other district schools. The decision has angered many parents and alumni, who view it as a watering down of the school’s academic rigor.
“These tweets suggest the recent decision to permanently change Lowell High School’s merit-based admission system to a lottery system, rushed through in five days with barely any community input, was prejudiced by the same animosity,” the Recall SF School Board group said in a statement. “Asian Americans account for over 50 percent of Lowell’s students and are most likely to lose ground in this shift to a lottery system.”
Coming at a time of heightened anxiety over anti-Asian attacks and prejudice, the tweets struck a nerve and quickly began to circulate on social media. They were also picked up by right-wing media site Twitchy.com and by early Friday morning were being spread on Twitter by at least two dozen accounts in a series of identically-worded tweets decrying Collins’ “racist, anti-Asian tweets” and had shown up in a Yahoo News article.
Collins has not been without her defenders online, with some calling out the campaign against her as an effort to divide the Black and Asian community. While school board members Jenny Lam and Faauga Moliga have joined the calls for her resignation, Board President Gabriela López said on Twitter “I appreciate that Vice President Collins has apologized for her remarks.”
“The City and County of San Francisco prides itself on restorative justice, and so too does SFUSD. We will stand by each other and commit ourselves to working through the process of hurt and pain,” López said. “We must fight against white supremacy and misogyny, not each other.”
If Collins resigned, Mayor London Breed would be able to appoint a replacement. Breed previously appointed Lam and Moliga, who is among those facing a recall along with Collins and López.