Official’s N-word Non-apology ignites Cambridge

  • The service having id "propeller" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.
  • The service having id "buzz" is missing, reactivate its module or save again the list of services.
Official’s N-word Non-apology ignites Cambridge

Immediately following the incident, Jane Donohue wrote a January 11 letter to Superintendent Kenneth Salim and Mayor Marc McGovern calling for Dexter’s resignation.

“As a white educator and CPSD parent, I feel sickened about your use of the n-word yesterday during a CRLS class discussion on censorship…Your presence on the school committee is now a concrete example of white ignorance and cultural insensitivity at the highest level of our district. How can staff members be held accountable for creating a “rigorous, joyful and culturally responsive environment and violates it? Given our district’s strategic plan, increases in hate incidences against student and staff, and our ongoing failure to deliver equitable access to all of our students, we cannot afford to have you at the leadership table. Please resign.”

Dexter didn’t respond to the incident after both Ms. Milner, Dean of the History Department and Dua spoke to Dexter about her remarks immediately following class. She only responded to the incident after Superintendent Kenneth Salim released a statement to the CPS community. Salim, who is black, told the Boston he felt “uncomfortable” hearing Dexter use the n-word.

Although Dexter’s response was tepid, slow, and perfunctory, School Committee member Manikka Bowman immediately filed a motion to investigate the incident since Dexter’s apology further upset the students. In support of Bowman’s motion Councilor E. Denise Simmons wrote Cambridge School Committee stating, "In 2019, there is simply no excuse for having utilized such language and then hiding behind some variant of “I didn’t realize how hurtful this might be” to try to make amends. In 2019, in this community, that kind of ignorance cannot and should not be excused. I am not calling for condemnation, but I very much want us to harness this individual’s terribly poor word choice to spark some very necessary reflection.”

The n-word is firmly embedded in the lexicon of racist language that was and still is used to disparage African Americans. The word does not eradicate its historical baggage and its existing troubling racial relations among Blacks and between Whites and Blacks. For example, Salim conveyed he also felt a “level of discomfort” when Dua used the word. Many blacks, myself included, feel reclaiming and using racist words like the n-word dislodges the word from its historical context and makes us all insensitive and arrogant to the historical injustice done.

Dexter, however, doesn’t stand alone in this kerfluffle. Fellow committee member Patricia Nolan, who is also white, attempted to “whitesplain" Dexter’s stance. Bowman, who is black, clapped back that she, too, is tone deaf.

The n-word re-inscribes and perpetuates ideas and assumptions about race we consciously and unconsciously transmit generationally. Dexter’s non-apology for her use of the n-word suggests she has become insensitive and numb in the use and abuse of the power and currency this racial epithet still has; thus, thwarting the daily struggle many of us Cambridge residents work hard at in trying to ameliorate race relations.