*A Black educator in Texas has been suspended amid controversy over a photo of his white wife.
Colleyville Heritage High School Principal James Whitfield penned a lengthy Facebook message last month in which he detailed the day the district asked him to remove an intimate photo from his private Facebook page of James and his white wife. He is also catching heat from colleagues and parents for teaching critical race theory, which unpacks the root causes of racism and inequality in America.
Apparently, a slew of parents complained about the interracial imagery, while students at the school have come to Whitfield’s defense.
Here’s more from the Atlanta Constitution Journal:
Superintendent Robin Ryan announced Whitfield’s suspension Monday in an email to parents but did not provide any reason for the decision, the Post reported. Whitfield, who is the first Black principal at Colleyville Heritage High School, told the Post that he has been “placed on paid administrative leave.”
“I was not given any clear reasoning behind the decision and was not given a timetable regarding further steps,” Whitfield said in a Facebook message, according to the Post. “I was simply told that it was in the best interest of the district.”
In his August post, Whitfield recalled a phone call he received on June 27, 2019, about an anniversary photo of him and his wife that he shared on social media.
Whitfield said an “administrator” called him and told him to check his email and wait for a callback. Per Whitfield’s Facebook post:
I checked my email and saw what they were talking about. Before I describe the email I just want to point out for those who haven’t checked my profile, my wife is White. As I read the forwarded email it said “Is this the Dr. Whitfield we want as an example for our students?” And the picture attached was a picture of my wife and I kissing on the beach in Mexico during a trip we took for our 5-year anniversary. I showed my wife and I could tell she was already getting upset – tears were welling up, but I was still awaiting the callback. When the phone rang again I immediately picked up.
Whitfield reluctantly obliged when the administrator asked him to take down the photo, which showed him and his wife, Kerrie, in an intimate pose on the beach.
“As I got off the phone my wife sat there in tears. I tried to do my best to console her as we both tried to grapple with what just took place,” he wrote. “We hid the photo, no one from ‘above’ ever mentioned anything else about it, but the damage was inflicted on us in profound ways. It was at this moment that I knew the attack that we currently endure, was coming. There are numerous examples of these sorts of racist threats and statements directed my way, but I continued to take the high road and focus on my mission and purpose, as nothing was ever done to alleviate or deter these threats on my behalf.”
Grapevine-Colleyville ISD responded to Whitfield’s message in a statement to NBC 5.
“When a social media concern is brought to the attention of the district, we have a responsibility to review it. Some of the photos the district received contained poses that are questionable for an educator, especially a principal or administrator. It had absolutely nothing to do with race. As a new campus principal, we wanted to provide a smooth transition for Dr. Whitfield to Heritage Middle School, which is why we advised him of the concern and made a request for the photos to be taken down from Facebook.”
In a statement to KXAS, the school district denied that racism played a factor.
“It had absolutely nothing to do with race,” the statement read. “As a new campus principal, we wanted to provide a smooth transition for Dr. Whitfield to Heritage Middle School, which is why we advised him of the concern and made a request for the photos to be taken down from Facebook.”
Whitfield believes the issue was most certainly sparked by his race.
“I can no longer maintain my silence in the face of this hate, intolerance, racism, and bigotry,” he said in the Facebook post. “I am not the CRT (Critical Race Theory) Boogeyman. I am the first African American to assume the role of Principal at my current school in its 25-year history, and I am keenly aware of how much fear this strikes in the hearts of a small minority who would much rather things go back to the way they used to be.”