Mayor Breed, other officials call on school board member who said Asians use ‘white supremacist thinking’ to resign

San Francisco School Board member Alison Collins is under significant pressure to resign after tweets she posted about Asian Americans back in 2016 were brought to light by a parent group seeking to oust her. As I pointed out yesterday, one of Collins tweets said, “Many Asian Am. believe they benefit from the ‘model minority’ BS…They use white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’” Today the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the significant backlash to those statements.

School board member Jenny Lam called for Collins to resign from the board.

“I’m shocked, dismayed, personally hurt by the remarks about Asian American students, parents and teachers,” Lam said, adding the board makes decisions that affect tens of thousands of people and it’s critical to have leaders representing all students.

Lam said she spoke to Collins on Friday.

“I asked, and I think it’s in the best interest of the school district and leadership for her to step down from the Board of Education,” Lam said…

Mayor London Breed also strongly condemned the posts, but did not directly call for her resignation.

“All of our young people in our schools need to feel respected and supported, and you simply can’t use words like that,” she said in a statement. “Asian people in this country have long faced very real racism, including here in San Francisco, and you can’t just broad brush their experience in a way that is so harmful and offensive.

Mayor Breed didn’t initially call for Collins’ resignation but she has since changed her mind. She now says the Asian community deserves better:

About a dozen other local officials including the chair of the SF Democratic Party have also called on Collins to resign. Here’s a letter they co-signed:

In addition, Lowell High School’s Black Student Union disinvited Collins from a “Women in Leadership” event she was expected to speak at Thursday night. That must have stung.

As for Collins, she told the Chronicle, “I’m not going to comment on social media posts from five years ago. I’ve been heartbroken seeing the escalating violence against my Asian-American brothers, sisters and siblings.” But this morning, Collins did comment about her old tweets in a post on Medium:

A number of tweets and social media posts I made in 2016 have recently been highlighted. They have been taken out of context, both of that specific moment and the nuance of the conversation that took place. President Donald Trump had just won an election fueled by division, racism and an anti-immigration agenda. Meanwhile one of my daughters had recently experienced an incident in her school in which her Asian-American peers were taunting her Latinx classmate about “sending kids back to Mexico” and the KKK. It was a time of processing, of fear among many communities with the unknown of how the next four years would unfold.

And here we are today. Anti-Asian racism is not new, but the recent uptick in violence and bigotry against Asian-Americans is clearly connected to Trump and his racist tropes.

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 are experiencing. Words have meaning and impact. Trump showed us that clearly with his sowing of hate and pitting communities of color against one another for political gain. 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.

Yesterday I compared this situation to the forced resignation of an editor at Teen Vogue. She was pushed out over decade-old tweets she had written as a high school student. She clearly regretted them and apologized. But as I wrote yesterday, “there’s no reason to think Collins has changed her views since then.” And sure enough, you probably noticed there was no retraction or explanation of this tweet (for instance).

Collins never says she was wrong, only that her words (taken out of context) may cause pain. So in what sense are these tweets old and out of context if she still believes them? Notice she still hasn’t deleted them even after the backlash.

I don’t like the idea of canceling or firing anyone over old tweets. People have the ability to grow and change over time. But Collins hasn’t grown or changed since 2016 and she’s not even claiming she has. She still believes Asians use white supremacist thinking to get ahead only now she has the power to act on those ideas as VP of the San Francisco School Board. It’s a shame only one member of the board has the guts to call for her resignation. No doubt some of them are worried they could be next.

Update: James Lindsay points out an old tweet by Collins on how to apologize. Is I’m sorry my tweet caused you pain any better than I’m sorry you were offended?

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