State Board of Education Board member called out for offensive tweet

Supt. Johnson issues letter to James Ford, questions his ability to lead strategic planning committee

State Board of Education board member James Ford

RALEIGH — A tweet equating swing and moderate voters to “white supremacy” by a member of the N.C. State Board of Education has the state’s superintendent of schools questioning the member’s ability to serve all students impartially.

The tweet in question which contained references to white supremacy also included masked profanity was issued on Aug. 17 by board member James Ford.

Image of controversial tweet from State Board of Education board member James Ford.

“Earlier this week, in summarizing your disappointment with the Democratic Party, you indicated that you believe “swing voters” and “white moderates” equate to “white supremacy.” While “swing voters” might not share your political views, they do share our desires for positive changes for our communities and schools,” N.C. State Superintendent Mark Johnson wrote in a letter to Ford about the tweet.

Johnson continued, writing that “Many of these centrists have other titles, too, like educators or parents. In appointing you to the North Carolina Board of Education, Governor Roy Cooper has tasked you to represent all North Carolinians without bias.”

In his letter, Johnson wrote that given Ford’s leadership role on the State Board “it is unacceptable to equate middle-of-the-road North Carolinians to being racists.”

Ford was appointed to the state education board in 2018 by Gov. Roy Cooper to backfill a seat vacancy.

Johnson noted that Eric Davis, the board’s chairman, had appointed Ford to lead the State Strategic Planning Committee and that is the “very committee charged with drafting a framework of action to improve opportunities and equity for all students and educators.”

Davis has not responded to North State Journal’s requests for comment.

“How can you continue to serve in this role when you have equated a large group of sensible constituents to racists?” Johnson asked. Johnson also said that Ford’s actions have “called into question his ability to continue to lead this committee and to serve on the State Board of Education.”

Ford responded in an article in Cardinal & Pine, which is an affiliate of the liberal Courier Newsroom.

In the article, Ford claimed his tweet was a reference to Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963), stating that “the text to which I alluded in my tweet and well-known by those more than casually familiar with his work.”

Over the last year, Courier Newsroom and its affiliated have been criticized as “hyperlocal partisan propaganda” by Gabby Deutch at the Washington Post. A report by OpenSecrets.org characterized Courier and its affiliates like Cardinal & Pine as appearing to be “free-standing local news outlets” but that they are “actually part of a coordinated effort with deep ties to Democratic political operatives.”

The tweet was public, but Ford seems to believe it was private, writing that, “I confess I do not follow the logic of a Republican State Superintendent taking issue with private comments of an unaffiliated State Board member over his misgivings about the Democratic Party.”

In the article, Ford also says the “mere notion that anyone is “without bias” is antithetical to equity work.”

At the upcoming Sept. meeting, the State Board of Education is expected to take up additions to the state’s social studies standards as well as the adoption of an “equity framework.” The social studies standards will include using “non-traditional sources” to teach about slavery and racism to include “perspectives of racial, ethnic, gender, and identity minority groups.”

About A.P. Dillon 272 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_