In December, Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino — who has a long history of making racist comments — made a series of outrageous “wishes” for 2017, including for then-President Barack Obama to “[catch] mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a [cow],” and for Michelle Obama “to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”
Paladino’s colleagues on the school board denounced his comments and called for his resignation. Local elected officials also immediately called on Paladino to resign. Gov. Andrew Cuomo rightly called the statements “racist, ugly and reprehensible.” The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the NAACP Buffalo Branch, and the Buffalo Parent Teacher Organization have also filed a formal removal petition, calling on state Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia to use her power to remove Paladino from the school board for breach of duty.
Paladino, who was the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 and last year served as co-chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in New York, has tried to frame these efforts as an attack on his free expression, but this petition is not about Paladino’s legal right to engage in racist speech. It is about the right of Buffalo’s children to learn in an environment that is purged of racism and harassment. That right is afforded by the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and the school district’s foundational documents, which codify the moral imperative to eradicate discrimination in education. When Paladino chose to join the school board, he agreed to abide by those dictates.
Read the full op-ed here.