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Tweets from a Jackson Public School Board member sparks controversy, leads to raucous board meeting

Jackson Public Schools board of education meeting
Posted at 10:46 AM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 10:48:03-05

JACKSON, Mich. — In a meeting held to swear in new-elected leadership positions, the focus from those who attended the Jackson Public Schools Board of Education meeting turned to something unrelated to the district.

The focus was instead on two tweets sent out in December from board member Kesha Hamilton’s personal account.

One from mid-December that says, “whiteness is so evil. It manipulates, then says, I won’t apologize for my dishonesty and trauma inducing practices and thinks you should applaud it for being honest about its ability to manipulate and be dishonest.”

A second tweet that was sent earlier in December was responding to a man who said, “Black. Male. Alone. Raining. Foggy. Hiking. You write the rest of the script.” To which she responded, “the last thing you have to worry about it is an animal though that could be a very real threat. More dangerous are any white folks you may see on the trail. Be safe!”

Some people in attendance called for Hamilton’s resignation.

“She accused others for attempting to divide this community. This is exactly what she wants. This is why she is here. It is not for the students, the district or the community. It is for her fame and notoriety and the intentional distraction from the great work that this district does. These posts were made to incite and divide with no explanation of her supposed intention until after she incited all this anger. She knows exactly what she’s doing,” Jackson resident Cheryl Simonetti said.

Kesha Hamilton
Trustee Kesha Hamilton (left) being embraced by JPS meeting attendee (right)

While others came out in support of Hamilton.

“It’s important to be able to have these kinds of discussions in the classroom. It’s important to be able to have these kinds of discussions at the faculty level and also here with the board. So, I hope that you don’t dismiss her comments. I hope that you don’t represent her as evil, but she brings something that’s vitally important to us, and I appreciate that,” former teacher Mike McKenney said.

The meeting drew in about 100 people. School officials made the decision to bring uniformed police officers for protection.

Hamilton explained what she meant by her tweets.

“Whiteness defined is, ‘white racialized identity which refers to the way that white people, their customs, culture and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups are compared.’ Writers crafted whiteness as a national inheritance, a way to preserve the social construction of American life and, ironically, its democratic institutions and values," she said. "Given the extent of the nation’s belief in white supremacy, one would be astonished if it had not been a guiding principle."

She also said whiteness is a construct and a normalization with a foundation in white supremacy.

“Recent examples are the murder of George Floyd, the massacre of Black residents in Buffalo, New York, the attempted kidnapping of Gov. Whitmer, the attack on our democracy on Jan. 6, 2021 and inconsistencies of our criminal justice system,” she said. “The real issue is not actually about me, and I realized that what I am experiencing publicly as a Black woman is what many of our Black students and other vulnerable and marginalized groups are experiencing privately. The national temperature is at a boiling point and this type of bullying, intimidation, gaslighting, ignoring and attempting to silence that we have seen for a very long time, not only from individuals outside of this county but also from this board table is what’s causing our educational system to fail here in Jackson.”

At the end of the meeting, other board members spoke on what’s happened and are ready to move forward.

“We have a lot of work to do. We can only address these issues if we can come together. Agree to disagree. Understand. Take the time to ask those clarifying questions. At the fundamental level our actions, our words, our beliefs should come from a place of love," Vice President Shalanda Hunt said.

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