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A former sundown town’s first Black state legislator called out the city’s superintendent for accepting a donation from Landers Chevrolet employees who brandished the “White Power” symbol.
Making the rounds on Twitter on Friday, a photo depicted Norman Public Schools representatives accepting a $15,000 check on March 4 from employees with Landers Chevrolet. In the photo, the two employees touched their index fingers with their thumbs while the three remaining fingers were held down.
While most people would assume the symbol represents the phrase “OK”, organizations like the Anti-defamation League assert that the symbol has become associated with white supremacy and the far right.
In a statement on Monday, days after the post had gone viral, Oklahoma state Rep. Merelyn Bell eviscerated Norman Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nick Migliorino for remaining silent on the matter.
“I’ve waited for several days to see if our district would say anything publicly about this photo, but sadly they have not. So tonight I’ll say to all the constituents and concerned citizens who have reached out to me that I’m disappointed in our superintendent’s inability to take a stand when it truly matters,” Rep. Bell posted on Facebook.
Landers Chevrolet under fire for White Power symbol
Landers Chevrolet proudly displayed the photo on Twitter with a caption that read “We’re continuing the tradition of supporting our community this year! Thank you Norman Public Schools for working hard to maintain the standard of education in Norman! Use this donation from us to you however you feel would best help expand education in Norman.”
The March 4 tweet has since been deleted.
Twitter users were quick to call out the photo, with one user showing the alleged identity of one of the Landers Chevrolet employees, sales manager Jerry Effinger.
The Black Wall Street Times reached out to Landers Chevrolet of Norman to determine whether Effinger or the other employee was still working for the company. A manager who answered the phone declined to comment on the status of the employees.
Norman Public Schools officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“In my view, [the superintendent] has missed an opportunity to unite our community against hate and reassure those negatively impacted by the symbolism displayed in the photo that Norman Public Schools doesn’t tolerate discrimination or intolerance,” Rep. Bell added.
An “inclusive city” still dealing with its racist legacy
For its part, the city of Norman markets itself as a progressive blue dot in the deep red state of Oklahoma. Yet, like many communities around the nation, Norman was once a sundown town, a community that expelled Black people and one that used violence and intimidation to keep Blacks out of the town after dark.
Decades after removing visible signage of this racist legacy, Norman Public Schools continues to discipline Black students at disproportionate rates. The district recently came under fire after a viral video showed a Black, special needs student being bullied by a White student with little intervention from the substitute teacher.
“I encourage Dr. Migliorino to address this photo and the hurt it has caused publicly. And return the donation to Landers Chevrolet until they, at a bare minimum, address the issue and apologize publicly as well,” Rep. Bell said.