MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A white candidate to be Wisconsin’s top education official deleted her Twitter account and apologized after posting a message that she had been called a racial slur for Black people when she was 16 because “my lips were bigger than most and that was the reference given to me.”
Deborah Kerr posted the message at 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, the day of Wisconsin’s primary for state superintendent of schools. Kerr was the second-highest vote-getter in the primary and advanced to the April general election.
The tweet from Kerr’s account came in response to a question posed by the host of a podcast called Race Through Education, Madison Payton, who is also coordinator of curriculum and instruction at a New York City high school. Payton asked: “When was the first time someone called you the n-word? I was 18.”
Kerr responded: “I was 16 in high school and white — my lips were bigger than most and that was the reference given to me.”
Kerr said Wednesday in a statement: “I posted a tweet in response to a post that dealt with the issue of racism. While not intending the post to be interpreted as racist, the post was itself insensitive and so I shut my account down and removed the comment.”
Kerr’s response along with her Twitter account were gone Wednesday, but screenshots of her message were circulating widely.
“I apologize for having posted something that was intended to be a part of the discussion of racism,” Kerr said in her statement.
Savion Castro, who is Black and a member of the Madison school board, responded to Kerr on Twitter saying her tweet made him “profoundly sad and angry.”
“Perfect example of white educators profound failures to understand the isolation, alienation, and disenfranchisement our Black & Brown students experience in our education system – public & private,” he tweeted.
Earlier in the campaign, the only Black candidate in the state superintendent race, Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams, accused Kerr of a “racially motivated” attack when she tried to have Hendricks-Williams kicked off the ballot. Kerr filed a complaint saying Hendricks-Williams submitted invalid nomination papers. The Wisconsin Elections Commission deadlocked and Hendricks-Williams remained on the ballot.
Kerr said at the time that Hendricks-Williams broke the law and that her attempt to remove her from the ballot wasn’t personal.
Hendricks-Williams, who finished fourth in Tuesday’s primary, said she was disappointed in the tweet, which she called “hurtful to many.”