Gabriela Baron: Ex-trustee pulls daughter from Spence after school shows clip 'deriding' White women
Gabriela Baron in a letter to the school on June 11 said that the video 'openly derides, humiliates, and ridicules White women'
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY: A former trustee of Manhattan’s Spence School, an all-girls private school, reportedly pulled her daughter out after a class video shown to her eighth-grade daughter and classmates on graduation day offended her.
Gabriela Baron in a letter to the school said that the video “openly derides, humiliates, and ridicules White women.” She wrote, “they sat there in their graduation dresses while the White mothers of the White students — many of whom volunteer, donate, call, email and do whatever the school asks of them — were tarred and feathered in a video their teacher showed them. While their White female teachers were mocked.”
Who is Gabriela Baron?
The angered parent is reportedly Cuban-American and is presently an executive vice president for Strategy at KLDiscovery, a company that provides information governance and data recovery solutions to support litigation, regulatory compliance, internal investigation and data recovery and management needs of its clients.
Baron, in her letter, said the footage, featuring comedian Ziwe Fumudoh, was another indication of what she and her husband “see happening at Spence”. She said, “over the last several years my husband and I have grown increasingly concerned about certain trends at Spence, including what we believe is a de-emphasis of academic rigor and a single-minded focus on race, diversity, and inclusion that is now driving the school and everything that goes on within its walls.” Baron is also an alum of Spence, who attended the school from 8th grade through 12th, graduating with the class of 1989.
“The blatantly racist video,” as Baron called it, was from Ziwe Fumudoh's Showtime show, ‘Ziwe’, where she speaks to author Fran Lebowitz. In one part of the episode, the comic said, “I believe that you are not concerned with how annoying White women can be.” The episode featured sit-downs with Lebowitz, women’s rights icon Gloria Steinem, and four White women named 'Karen'. The caption to introduce Lebowitz read, “Author, Public Speaker, White Woman.” Fumudoh in the show also asked Steinem how many Black friends she had.
“It astounds me that a Spence faculty member felt comfortable showing this to students and thought it was acceptable to do so,” Baron said. “Had the video derided and ridiculed Asian women, Black women or Hispanic women, the Spence community would declare with one voice that it was blatantly racist.”
“In fact, had a similar video been shown making fun of ANY OTHER racial group, Spence, its faculty, the Board and the entire community would be whipped into a frenzy,” Baron said. “Is Ziwe’s video somehow not racist and acceptable to Spence because it attacks Whites?”
Baron said that several years ago, students in Spence’s lower school were “required to make politically-oriented protest posters.” adding that when she protested, she was falsely told by school officials that this was not the case. “I believe this [recent video] incident is emblematic of a larger problem and a sad reflection of the current climate at Spence,” Baron wrote in her June 11 letter.
“When our daughter was accepted to Spence, I wept. I was so proud to be able to give her a Spence education,” she said, adding that concerns like these led her to resign from her position as an Annual Fund co-chair in 2018. She wrote, “Those concerns also caused us to vote with our feet and make the difficult decision to have our daughter attend high school at a different school.” Baron had served on the board of trustees for eight years, often co-chairing its Annual Fund. “I believe that the family of every student in that class is owed an apology from the school,” she said. “Racism is racism.”
In a response to the incident, the school said in a statement to the press, “This satirical video is not a part of our curriculum. We trust our dedicated teachers and stand by their professionalism and commitment to our students.”
Later, however, Bodie Brizendine, head of the Spence School, sent out an email to parents claiming, “We take this seriously; it is never acceptable to ridicule anyone at any time. This video is not part of the Spence curriculum. Our teacher and the school acknowledge that sharing a satirical video that made fun of White women was a significant mistake.”
“We are sorry for any harm this has caused to anyone in our community,” Brizendine said. “We will be strengthening faculty protocols.” On December 8, 2020, Brizendine and the board of trustees announced the plan for her retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
Another parent, who reportedly recently took her daughter out of Spence, told The New York Post that the apology note is “a step in the right direction.” She said, under the condition of anonymity, “I’m happy to see that someone is willing to apologize to White people. But I think it stops short of calling it racism and canceling this teacher. I’m not in the business of canceling people... I don’t want it on either side... But I do question that if [the video] was against Blacks or against Asians if that teacher wouldn't have been systematically fired.”
Another parent said anonymously, “We will have our day. This is becoming a culture war… I guess that’s what people want, instead of being truthful.”