UPDATED, Thursday, Aug. 20.
State Board of Education member James Ford tied “swing voters” and “white moderates” to “white supremacy” in a late-night tweet Monday, Aug. 17.
The tweet was a response to the Democratic National Convention, which opened its virtual nominating convention Monday. Tuesday night, Democrats formally nominated former Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s presidential nominee.
Ford called out the DNC for “playing to swing voters” and “white moderates,” which he then connected to “white supremacy.”
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, appointed Ford to the state education board in 2018 to fill a vacancy for the southwest region. Because Ford filled a vacancy, the General Assembly wasn’t required to confirm his appointment.
On Thursday, Superintendent Mark Johnson weighed in.
“Given your leadership role on the State Board, while you might not find the current Democratic Party leadership to be very inspiring, it is unacceptable to equate middle-of-the-road North Carolinians to being racists,” Johnson said in an email to Ford.
Ford leads the Strategic Planning Committee on the state education board, but Johnson questioned whether Ford could hold onto his leadership position after his actions.
If Ford demonstrates that his “radical views” won’t impair his ability to serve in an impartial manner then the matter should be deferred to Cooper and Davis, Johnson said, but if Ford can’t do that then he should at least resign from the Strategic Planning Committee.
“DPI and the State Board face many challenges moving forward, and your inflammatory rhetoric harms our mission to provide a sound, basic education to all students,” Johnson said.
Cooper didn’t respond to an email from Carolina Journal asking whether he felt the statement was appropriate for a board member to make.
Before serving on the state education board, Ford was a program director at the Public School Forum of North Carolina, and was the N.C. State Teacher of the Year during 2014-2015.
Ford is also the principal at Filling the Gap Education Consultants, LLC, a consulting firm providing equity-based educational solutions to districts and schools. He is the executive director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education.
Ford’s bio on the Center for Racial Equity in Education describes him as an “equity warrior” who has written about race and education in Education Post, EdWeek, Charlotte Magazine, Charlotte Agenda and EducationNC.
CJ sent an email to Ford asking if he stood by his tweet. He hasn’t responded.
He did, however, refer to CJ’s original story Thursday in a thread on Twitter. He said he was using the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as a reference.
The News & Observer reported on the dispute Thursday. Ford didn’t respond to the Raleigh newspaper, either.
Neither SBE Chair Eric Davis nor SBE Vice Chair Alan Duncan responded to CJ’s email asking whether they thought Ford’s tweet was appropriate.