(Graphic illustration by Morgaine Ford-Workman)
(Graphic illustration by Morgaine Ford-Workman)

“If you’re running for State Superintendent you should understand how problematic this tweet is.”

State superintendent candidate Deborah Kerr deleted her Twitter account after she tweeted on Election Night about being called the N-word. Kerr is white.

“I was 16 in high school and white – my lips were bigger than most and that was the reference given to me,” Kerr wrote in response to another user who asked when people first experienced being called the slur.

Kerr was one of the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s spring primary election and will face Jill Underly in the April election. The two have attracted supporters on either side of the controversial issue of using taxpayer funds for private and non-district charter schools. Kerr, who has attracted conservative support, has not expressed opposition to vouchers while Underly, endorsed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council teachers union, has publicly opposed voucher programs.

The tweet, sent before polls closed on Tuesday, resulted in harsh rebukes from members of the Black community, who said Kerr was tone-deaf in assuming her input was needed or wanted.

“This question wasn’t meant for you,” tweeted Nada Elmikashfi, chief of staff to Rep. Francesca Hong and a former state Senate candidate. “If you’re running for State Superintendent you should understand how problematic this tweet is.”

Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, said in a tweet that it was “exhausting” to see another Wisconsin political candidate make insensitive remarks.

“This is why I hate Wisconsin elections,” Lang said. “There’s always 1 person (at least) that says something ignorant and racist.”

Kerr deleted her Twitter account on Wednesday amid the backlash and issued a statement in which she acknowledged her response to the question was “insensitive.” 

“Yesterday 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 said. “I do not shy away from conversations about race. In fact, I am very vocal about racism as it exists in its many forms and I intentionally point to it when I see it. I apologize for having posted something that was intended to be a part of the discussion of racism. I will continue to serve as a champion against racism in our schools and in our communities.”

While Kerr said she does “not shy away from conversations about race,” one Twitter user accused Kerr of blocking her when she called the candidate out.