Carl Paladino is at it again or I should say still as he’s never stopped attacks against women of color. Now, he is going after the Buffalo Parent Teachers Organization (BPTO) a group with diverse members, who have called him out for behavior they describe as “racist and adverse”. Since he’s been on the Board of Education, Mr. Paladino has routinely referred to African American women, including former Superintendent Pamela Brown and other Black female administrators and the five minority female members of the Board with pejorative, demeaning, racialized terms. Using the expression in a perverse manner, he has called us the “sisterhood” and said we constitute a “cabal”. He commonly parrots the phrases: “incompetent, parasites, feeding at the public trough, unable to intelligently articulate, wanting to maintain the status quo, having a friends and family club, seeking self-empowerment and not caring about African American children.”
There’s more but I think readers can make the connection to the BPTO’s assessment of Paladino’s behavior. Other Black women leaders have also been subjected to Paladino’s negative characterizations. Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes and Regent; Dr. Catherine Collins experienced a verbal assault comprised of many of the above epithets after Dr. Collins’ appointment to replace former Regent Robert Bennett. In fact, until recently African American women have been the principal recipients of Paladino’s attacks. This behavior has continued for two years or more and in the last year has escalated, such that Mr. Paladino now cites the minority Board members and their allies as responsible for the “dysfunction”, “low morale”, and “corruption” in the schools. Never one to provide valid statistics, these charges are often “supported” by distorted and manufactured data. Yet most of these unprofessional, intimidating and unwarranted attacks have been met by a wall of silence from community leaders, of all ethnicities.
I have written to the Board President, Mr. Sampson, on three separate occasions regarding Mr. Paladino’s egregious behavior. These memos asked that the Board address: Mr. Paladino’s threatening email to Dr. Gary Orfield, the OCR consultant; his outburst at a Board meeting when he called the Board’s Black female attorney “ignorant” and his demand for Mr. Ogilvie’s resignation. None of these requests have been acknowledged.
Paladino claims that he is not a racist. As proof he is making the proverbial counterclaim that it is, in fact, the minority board members who are “playing the race card.” In a July 13th letter to new State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, Paladino supports this allegation by also calling the minority members “racists”. “It’s truly a shame that such racist, incompetent and irresponsible people are elected to such critical positions.” Paladino’s back up strategy is to threaten to sue anyone who uses the word racist and Paladino in the same sentence. Thanks to his privilege, money and access to legal representation (he has his own law firm), he ignores the contradiction in calling the minority members racists but will sue them if they exercise their free speech rights.
The BPTO has dared to confront Paladino on his claim that he is not a racist. Their letter is not just a challenge to Paladino, however. They say, “…it’s time for those who have aligned or associated with Mr. Paladino and those who have remained silent while in the position to actively denounce and reject his actions, be held accountable. BOE members, public and elected officials, community leaders, and media have a duty and responsibility to act. Systemic racism persists, not just because of individuals like Mr. Paladino, but because of those, while not racist themselves, tolerate systemic and individual racism with their silence and inaction, particularly those in a position of leadership and authority.”
On July 14th, the BPTO was joined by members of 17 other organizations, including Richard Lipsitz, AFL-CIO WNY Area President and Franchelle Hart, the Executive Director of Open Buffalo, to reinforce their call to Break the Silence. In public discourse, it may be the roar of the crowd that gets more attention but it’s the deafening silence that makes a greater impact. That silence condones the behavior, supports the offender and communicates tacit approval. Our children deserve better role models. Thank you, BPTO for having the courage to take this stand. Thank you for demonstrating that intolerant behavior should not be tolerated. Thank you for tackling the subject of race that few want to discuss but which all of us need to address as a community if Buffalo is truly going to fulfill its Renaissance destiny.
On February 23, 2015, I wrote a column which concluded:
When do the so-called pillars of the community, who claim to be concerned about the “state” of the Buffalo Schools, stop looking the other way as one man causes such havoc? When is enough, enough?! When do we stop allowing Black women to be disrespected and vilified? When is enough, enough?! When do we stop being silent; as our students are characterized as “poor, suffering children trapped in failing schools”; as systematic actions by Board members to “dismantle” our school district are touted as “bold and innovative”; as orchestrated and sustained assaults designed to create a narrative of the District as the “poster child” for failing schools in the State, are routinely published in the media, even though there are other cities with worse records. When is enough, enough?! When is enough, enough?!
Thank you BPTO for answering my question.