A woman who recently attended a school committee meeting in suburban Boston has apologized for questioning how a Black mother became a member and suggesting she was unqualified in a presumption that seemed based on nothing more than skin color.
Dr. Kenann McKenzie, an adjunct professor and Director of the Aspire Institute at Boston University’s Wheelock College who earned her PhD from Columbia University — an Ivy League school — also happens to be the only Black member of the school committee in Beverly, which is ab out 23 miles north of Boston.
But on Sept. 8, she was apparently nothing more than an unqualified Black woman who had no business being on a school committee, according to one woman at the meeting who did her best “Karen” impression to make it clear to everybody in attendance how privileged and entitled she felt on that fateful day.
That was when Donna Loiacano, identified by the Boston Globe as a local resident, voiced her objections to McKenzie being on the school committee and suggested it was only to address the panel’s lacking diversity.
“How does she get on the board?” Loiacano asked about McKenzie during the meeting, clearly not understanding the multiple ways parents can join the committee, which she called out of name.
Loiacano then asked if McKenzie was on the committee “because André Morgan’s here?” — a reference to the director of opportunity, access, and equity for Beverly Public Schools dripping with racist implications.
Loiacano said her main issue with McKenzie was that “she has to be voted on [the committee] by the public.” However, the truth of the matter is that Beverly school officials unanimously voted her into the position late last year to fill a vacancy, per city policy.
Another community resident raised a similar, baseless complaint about McKenzie’s qualifications for being on the school committee before the mayor of Beverly had to intervene.
“Neither you nor Ms. Loiacano are really showing any respect for Dr. McKenzie as a human being and as a member of our school committee,” Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill said to the man identified as Stephen Moloney. “I just want you to stop, Steve. Please.”
A deeper look at the situation revealed that Loiacano and the other resident actually took issue with the topic of critical race theory, the academic movement that has sparked countless other contentious encounters at school board and committee meetings across the country for months.
McKenzie said she felt the entire incident was “racially charged” and that she resented Loiacano’s initial question about how she got to be a member of the school committee.
“It is an added stress and burden to many people of color to have people stop you at the door and verify only you and no one else in the space,” McKenzie told the Salem News last week.
Loiacano told the Globe McKenzie accepted her apology.
“Although I do not want to keep talking about it, because I feel it would keep so much hate alive, possibly for many,” Loiacano said the Globe via text message. “I have extended a private apology to Dr. McKenzie which she kindly accepted. I wish her the best in her new position. For now I would really like to put this behind us, both Dr. McKenzie and myself, and move forward with my life.”
Berverly, which is more than 92% white and barely 2% Black, according to Census data, was the first place anything like that had ever happened to McKenzie, she said.
The town of Beverly rallied behind McKenzie on Tuesday.
The controversial school committee meeting came days after a Black couple claimed their family was racially profiled while picking apples at a farm in the town of Danvers, which is about three miles north of Beverly.
In that instance, Rev. Manikka Bowman — who is the vice-chair of the school committee in Cambridge — along with her husband, Jeff Myers, and their two young children were accused of stealing six whole apples from Connors Farm. The farm’s manager even called the police on the couple, which, they said, immediately took the side of the farm without taking into consideration how the couple’s kids, “in their apple-picking excitement, had picked up a few more apples than fit in the bag.”
Befoe Bowman and Myers were extended an opportunity to pay for the extra apples — an estimated cost of $4 — they were accused of stealing from an establishment where they paid “more than $100 on all-day admission, fruit picking as well as food and drinks” and contributed to a scholarship fund associated with Connors Farm.
Like Loiacano in Beverly, Connors Farm offered up an apology that may or may not be sincere.
Boston and its greater metropolitian area have long been dogged by a reputation for racism, especially against Black people. These two recent incidents — along with countless others — likely won’t do much to change folks’ opinions on that matter.