WTF? Two Educators Sue NY Dept Of Ed Claiming They Were Fired For Refusing To Do The ‘Wakanda’ Salute

Published on February 25, 2021

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Two veteran Bronx educators were demoted from their positions after refusing to perform the greeting that was depicted in the Marvel movie, Black Panther.

Richard Carranza is the New York City Schools Chancellor and was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2018. Since then, Chancellor Carranza has been accused of creating a toxic racialized environment in NYC schools pitting parents against each other along racial lines.

It seems that the toxic environment extends to educators as well.

Chancellor Carranza, the son of Mexican day immigrants, has allowed the use of the “Wakanda Forever” salute as depicted in the Black Panther comics and the popular Marvel movie during professional gatherings.

When Rafaela Espinal — a Dominican-American who describes herself as Afro-Latina — declined to join in, she “was admonished and told that it was inappropriate for her not to participate,” according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed Feb. 3 against the city DOE, Chancellor Richard Carranza and some of his top-ranking lieutenants.

Espinal was one year shy of earning a lifetime DOE pension when she was abruptly fired from her role as head of Community School District 12 in Bronx without explanation, after repeatedly refusing to do the “Wakanda Forever” salute, according to the lawsuit.

Desperate to keep her retirement benefits and health insurance, the single mom — who recently earned a doctorate — eventually accepted a humiliating demotion to school investigator, a role which requires only a high school diploma and which left her with no permanent desk or phone.
Source: New York Post

Espinal said that she became disturbed when superintendents were asked to perform the gesture during professional meetings because it “introduced a racial divide where there should be none.”

Porter, far left in blue jacket, Carraza, center with goatee and Espinal, far right in red jacket

Executive superintendent, Meisha Ross Porter, would often tie the symbol to the militant civil rights group, the Black Panthers, and noted that her father had been a member.

The Department of Education insists that the gesture isn’t a “black power” symbol, but that is a “symbol to represent the Bronx.”

Wait… does that mean that they appropriated it for their own use while not properly acknowledging the fictional Wakanda nation? That seems problematic.

Espinal said that racial divisions began in 2017 when black superintendents began to meet separately after the larger gatherings. She also alleges that DoE administrators told her that she “wasn’t black enough” and she should “just learn to be quiet and look pretty.”

Espinal has filed a $40 million lawsuit alleging wrongful termination.

But she isn’t the only one who was punished for refusing to make the gesture created by comic book writers. Karen Ames, who was the Superintendent of District 8 since 2014, was also demoted for refusing to participate. Ames was moved to the Office of School Health and eventually left because they gave her no work.

Karen Ames

She has filed a $150 million lawsuit for wrongful dismissal because her age and Jewish heritage didn’t line up with Carraza’s “equity” agenda.

Karen Ames, a 30-year Department of Education employee, says she was targeted by Carranza’s “Disrupt and Dismantle” campaign to oust or marginalize longtime employees because she is over 40, and Jewish.

“The agenda of Chancellor Carranza and his senior leadership team was euphemistically touted as an ‘equity platform’ but in reality, it was a platform used to create gender, age, racial and ethnic divisions in the NYC School system,” she contends in her Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed Friday.

Ames was grilled about her “ethnic background,” chastised by a colleague at a training session when she shared her grandparents’ experience during the Holocaust in Poland, and “admonished” when she declined requests at superintendents meetings to take part in the comic book movie-inspired “Wakanda Forever” salute to “black power,” she charges in the legal filing.
Source: New York Post

Ames’s lawsuit states that she told the story of her grandparents’ experiences during a training session for superintendents on implicit bias. Her colleague, Rasheda Amon, told her, “You better check yourself. That is not about being Jewish! It’s about black and brown boys of color only.”

A spokesperson said that the Department of Education is “committed to fostering a safe, inclusive work environment and strongly dispute any claims of discrimination or improper treatment.”

Apparently “safe and inclusive” mean very different things to the NYC Department of Education than it does to the rest of us.