Last week, the Montclair Times finally engaged in reporting on some of the deeply troubling revelations that have come up in the Michelle Fine emails. Unfortunately, they didn’t do much to delve into any of the scandals that these emails have revealed (some of which we’ve reported on here, including David Cummings ethics code violations). Instead, as a letter to the editor in The Montclair Times from former New York Times National Editor David R. Jones noted, the Montclair Times’ reporting fell short by failing to delve into those issues, and instead just serving as a platform for Fine’s spin:
The Times was correct in giving Ms. Fine an opportunity to comment on her emails. But I trust future coverage will also reflect the views of the many local residents who disagree with her spin, and who feel that her allies are pursuing an agenda that puts their personal interests over the welfare of Montclair children. The emails underscore the damaging, misleading and corrosive impact this approach is having on the community.
And that spin is notable. Fine took the opportunity offered her to make baseless accusations that the criticisms of her deplorable conduct in waging a scorched earth campaign of personal attacks over the last few years were actually aimed at others. In her words:
“I feel like I am the portal to other people’s emails,” Fine said. “I am thinking they want dirt on Cummings, Jackson, Shepard and Spiller, four major African-American figures in the community.”
And suddenly, Fine has tried to make an issue that was entirely about her own divisive agenda even more divisive, by trying to claim that racism was somehow involved. It’s an absurd notion – there were over 30 people connected to her whose emails exchanges with her were requested, most of whom it doesn’t apply to.
But, on further review of some of her emails, it does actually reveal something important about Fine’s perspective. Perhaps she see’s it that way because that’s how she behaves – viewing prominent African American’s as chess pieces for her agenda.
We’ve mentioned before the tokenism latent in some of her emails about strategy.
In a November email to Debra Jennings, Fine accuses former superintendent Penny McCormack of “parading african American faces “as if” they are her supporters.. she does a perverse minstrel show with james earle”
Obviously, it’s a deeply insulting suggestion – not just to McCormack, but also to James Earle.
The irony, of course, is that as we mentioned the emails show that it’s Fine who – as we’ve mentioned before – is the one trying to “parade African american faces” at her events.
In a November 26th email exchange, Christine McGoey wrote:
In it, McGoey expresses concern that they don’t have enough persons of color confirmed for the event, and asks who Bevin is (in addition to talking about stuffing the ballot box on an MFEE survey).
Fine replies that Bevin is great – because he is an Older african American (not mentioning his qualities as a speaker or anything like that).
That’s exactly the sort of thing she’s accusing others of, and makes clear that those accusations are more telling about how she thinks about the world, than about the actions of anyone else.
Even more disturbingly though, is another email she sent to the MEA’s Gayl Shepard, with a long piece dedicated to claiming that her opponents are fierce and abusive racists. Indeed, the piece contains a series of intense accusations aimed at the district leadership, accusing them of parading black reformers on the achievement gap panel (insulting to those participants as well), baselessly accusing the district’s leadership of getting kickbacks from sugar companies (does she have any evidence, at all, for spreading this kind of crazy attack?), accusing her of racist attacks on parents and kids in a way that is pretty disgusting.
We really wonder how Shepard responded to that – if at all.
Michelle Fine’s emails show where the real racism is: in the kind of white racial paternalism that thinks that anyone who doesn’t agree with her extreme political agenda is being used, rather than a free-thinking human being capable making their own decisions. Not only is it racist in its own right, it’s the sort of divisive, with-us-or-against-us thinking that has divided the town. Not everyone is going to agree with you on policy, but that doesn’t mean that they’re a racist, or a sell out. Fine’s incredibly hostility towards those who disagree with her extreme political agenda has done tremendous political damage to our town, and those political leaders who have associated themselves with her need to put an end to it. Our town can’t afford any more of it any longer.
As Fine herself said at the end of the article,
“It is a profound embarrassment in a town like Montclair that someone is engaged in tactics that are not about education.”
It’s abundantly clear that her tactics have nothing to do with education and nothing to do with our children, and are instead all about tearing her enemies down, even to the extent of engaging in racist attacks on members of the community. It’s an intense and brazen form of hypocrisy that’s exactly what’s wrong with our national politics, and it’s terrible that this sort of poison has seeped into our community and schools through her actions.