NY educator says she was fired for not doing ‘Black Panther’ salute
Rafaela Espinal felt the gesture 'introduced a racial divide where there should be none'
Rafaela Espinal, a veteran Bronx educator, claims that her job was terminated when she refused to imitate the salute from the 2018 Marvel movie Black Panther during superintendent meetings.
According to the New York Post, then-Bronx superintendent Meisha Ross Porter expected attendees at the meetings for high-level Department of Education bosses to perform the arms-crossed-over-chest gesture of solidarity that was made famous by the comic-book movie.
Espinal, a Dominican-American who identifies as Afro-Latina, claims that when she didn’t mimic the “Wakanda Forever” salute along with her peers, she “was admonished and told that it was inappropriate for her not to participate,” according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed Feb. 3 against the city DOE, Chancellor Richard Carranza and some of his top-ranking lieutenants.
The New York Post reported that Espinal had only a year to go before being eligible to earn a lifetime DOE pension when she was suddenly fired from her role as head of Community School District 12 in the Bronx without explanation, according to the lawsuit.
In a group photo that Porter shared on Twitter, Espinal, who is wearing a red jacket and is on the far right, performed a half-hearted version of the salute.
Espinal had recently earned a doctorate, yet she was demoted to the position of school investigator, a job that only requires a high school diploma. Desperate to keep her retirement benefits and health insurance, the single mom accepted the job.
Lawyers for Espinal said the long-time educator was repeatedly asked to salute Wakanda, and she felt the symbolic gesture “introduced a racial divide where there should be none.”
The DOE insists the famous cross-arm gesture doesn’t refer to “Black power,” but is instead “a symbol used to represent the Bronx.”
Fellow DOE administrators also allegedly told Espinal she wasn’t “Black enough,” and she should “just learn to be quiet and look pretty,” she claims in the $40 million suit.
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