San Francisco School Board Vice President Alison Collins faced increased pressure Monday to resign following a tumultuous weekend in which it was found that she had tweeted numerous racist tweets several years ago.
The tweets made by Collins, uncovered late last week by the Recall SF School Board group, specifically targeted Asian Americans in December of 2016. Among the tweets she had sent out were saying that Asian Americans had “used white supremacist thinking to assimilate get ahead”, compared Asian Americans to “House n——s”, and said that she was looking to “combat anti-black racism in the Asian community” at her daughters’ “mostly Asian Am school.”
I'm looking to combat anti-black racism in the Asian community at at my daughters' mostly Asian Am school.
— Alison Collins 高勵思 (@AliMCollins) December 4, 2016
Do they think they won't be deported? profiled? beaten? Being a house n****r is still being a n****r. You're still considered "the help."
— Alison Collins 高勵思 (@AliMCollins) December 4, 2016
While the tweets had been forgotten for several years, a group trying to recall several SF school board members, Recall SF School Board, found and used the tweets as evidence for recalling Collins. With violence and racism against Asian Americans becoming a big issue in the US in the last few weeks, especially in San Francisco, a city with a 34% Asian American population that has seen some of the worst anti-Asian attacks largely due to misplaced blame for the COVID-19 pandemic, the tweets quickly spread outrage against Collins this weekend.
Many citizens and lawmakers quickly called for her resignation, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
On Saturday, through a series of tweets and an apology letter written on Medium, Collins said that she regretted tweeting those things but refused to resign as she said that they had been taken “out of context.” Collins also shifted the blame to former President Donald Trump, claiming it was his actions that spurred her to write her tweets in the first place.
“A number of tweets and social media posts I made in 2016 have recently been highlighted,” said Collins in her Medium letter.
“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 and siblings 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.”
“A number of tweets and social media posts I made in 2016 have recently been highlighted,” added Collins in a tweet. “They have been taken out of context, both of that specific moment and the nuance of the conversation that took place.”
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. https://t.co/oHDSZojGFc pic.twitter.com/ZoTdCBJv6f
— Alison Collins 高勵思 (@AliMCollins) March 20, 2021
Calls for resignation continue despite apology
However, her backtracking had little effect, with 19 top School Board administrators announcing the very next day that her tweets were not acceptable and called for everything short of her resignation.
“As public servants, we work for the Board of Education through the superintendent, but we serve the students and families of San Francisco,” said the administrators on Sunday. “Although we believe it would be inappropriate for us to call for the resignation of an elected official who is part of the governing body of our district, our silence should not be interpreted as complicity or approval. We condemn Vice President Collins’ statements in the strongest possible terms.”
Others also supported Collins’ resignation following her apology, with school board members Jenny Lam and Faauuga Moliga stating that her tweets “perpetuate gross and harmful stereotypes and leave no room for nuance or potential misunderstanding,” that her medium post was a “non-apology,” and that Collins did not take responsibility for her tweets.
“If she had been white or a Republican she would have been out by now,” noted San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke. “Well look, the Board has already received scores of negative national attention this year, namely, that whole school renaming program that they had to peddle back on because of how much outcry it had received. They also received significant negative coverage for not formulating a reopening plan quickly. I mean, even LA beat them to the punch there.”
“And now this. Collins could have made a rational argument in her tweets. She could have had a spirited debate on ‘model minorities’ or something similar. Rather, she just ranted, even invoking the n-word a few times. She is black, but it still doesn’t excuse it. Not in this context.”
“I don’t know if this is enough to justify a resignation. I can’t make that call. But what I will say is that the group trying to recall her and two other board members just got a huge piece of ammunition against her. They just won over many Asian-Americans, as well as other groups, by pointing out racism she harbors.”
“That could maybe be enough to justify resignation, but it sure does really make the case to recall her so much easier.”
Despite being defended by some school board supporters on Monday, including School Board President Gabriela Lopez, backlash against Collins is expected to continue this week.