“When I say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it is not meant to disparage any other race,” Andrea Kane wrote to parents of 7,700 students in Queen Anne’s County, Md. “It is an acknowledgment of the disparate brutality and overt racism that is only experienced by Black people in America, including me.”
Kane, the district’s first Black superintendent, knew the movement was divisive.
But she felt she would have been negligent had she not addressed the images her students saw on television and on social media. And over nearly three years on the job, she had collected evidence of systemic and overt racism, and worked to build racial equity.
Initially, messages of gratitude filled her inbox.
“People had been suffering for years,” Tory Brown, a Black Queen Anne’s County native, who is an instructional assistant in the school system, told my colleague Erica Green. “We just never had anyone to speak up.”
Then, Kane said, “everything just imploded.”
In the past year, parents and elected officials have fought over “critical race theory,” an academic framework that views racism as ingrained in law and other modern institutions.
For the roughly 2 percent of superintendents who are Black, the debates have felt personal and poignant. And for those in majority-white, conservative communities, like Queen Anne’s County, the debate can be incendiary.
After Kane’s email, parents quickly organized against her.
“Our children will not be indoctrinated by anyone’s political opinion in the school and our children must NEVER feel that their white skin color make them guilty of slavery or racism!” read one post in a Facebook group of parents calling themselves the “Kent Island Patriots.”