The head of Community School District 12 in the Bronx has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education claiming that she was fired for refusing to do a “Black Panther salute” in photos.
Rafaela Espinal claims in her lawsuit that they were forced by the superintendent to do the salute to Black power from the 2018 comic-book movie “Black Panther” in photos — or else.
Espinal’s lawyers say that their client declined to do the salute because it “introduced a racial divide where there should be none.”
The photos were taken during official gatherings of high-level Department of Education bosses, at the urging of then-Bronx superintendent Meisha Ross Porter, who claims her father was a member of militant civil rights group the Black Panther Party.
The New York Post reports that Espinal “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.
“The DOE insists the famous cross-arm gesture doesn’t refer to “Black power,” but is instead “a symbol used to represent the Bronx,” the report continues. “Fellow DOE administrators also allegedly told Espinal she wasn’t ‘Black enough’ and she should ‘just learn to be quiet and look pretty,’ she claims in the $40 million suit.”
Racial tension became so high, according to Espinal, who is Dominican, that black administrators would meet separately and only the birthdays of black superintendents were recognized at official meetings.
In the termination letter, Espinal was told that the Department of Education was moving “in a new direction” and that she “did not fit into that agenda,” according to the lawsuit.