New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza had just started in his new job when, in April of this year, he tweeted out a link to a Rawstory.com video headlined, watch: wealthy white manhattan parents angrily rant against plan to bring more black kids to their schools. The video showed a sensitive debate about plans to engineer a new racial balance in three Upper West Side middle schools; casting the complicated discussion as a “rant” against “black kids” on the part of “wealthy white Manhattan parents” was typical of tabloid-style clickbait.
One would think that the new head of the country’s largest school system would not want to blast out incendiary messages designed to foment racial hostility. But Carranza has made such utterances part of his brand. When a white woman told Carranza on a radio call-in show that she was “stunned” by his statement, and “hear loud and clear—me as a white parent in P.S. 199—I am not part of your constituency,” the chancellor advised her to attend implicit-bias training classes. He was telling her to check her privilege, as the saying goes, before speaking to him again.
Carranza has continued to spread his radical, race-based message of transformation. “We’re not about improving the system,” he told Al Sharpton’s National Action Network last weekend. “We’re about changing the system.” That system, he claims, fails to teach black and Latino students, while offering a different level of service to other, presumably white, children. Carranza wants to eliminate the test-based system of admission to the city’s specialized high schools, which has resulted in disproportionate representation of South Asian and East Asian kids in Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant, and six other premier schools. “I don’t buy into the narrative that any one ethnic group owns admissions to these schools,” Carranza said, as though studying for and excelling on standardized tests was somehow indicative of entitlement.
This week, Carranza retweeted a post by Matt Gonzales called “White Lips to White Ears,” which appeared on Medium, an unedited, un-curated blogging platform, where anyone can post anything. Gonzales, who has two followers on the site, identifies himself there as an “Educator, Advocate, Policy Nerd.” His piece details a 2015 camping trip he took, during which a white woman disagreed with his views on white supremacy—specifically, that she was a beneficiary of it and advocate for it. Everyone else on the trip agreed with Gonzales—“everyone but Becky. Her name’s not really Becky, but let’s call her Becky. Becky disagreed. Becky felt attacked.” (Becky is a common slur for white women. As The Root explains, “Not all white women are Beckys, but all Beckys are white women.”)
Gonzales details his patient efforts to get Becky “woke” to her unearned white privilege, though he is frustrated by her “white fragility,” which prevents her from hearing his analysis as anything but an attack on her character. Fortunately, some other whites succeed in convincing her that she is a racist. “At first, I was furious,” says Gonzales. “I felt disarmed, inadequate, and hopeless in the face of white Amerikkkan racism.” But then he realized that it was “not my job to educate white Amerikkka on white supremacy,” but rather, “the responsibility of white allies to educate other white Amerikkkans on the role white supremacy plays.”
Gonzales’s article is silly, poorly argued, and unpublishable except on a bulletin board. Yet the chancellor of New York City’s schools not only read it, but decided to tweet it from his official city Twitter account. Previous New York school chancellors, flawed though they may have been, have usually avoided communicating in such a deliberately divisive manner. At the rate Carranza’s going, he’ll be out in the streets soon—not out a job, necessarily, but manning the barricades.
Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office