April 13th, 2024

Wisconsin school district releases tape of Black superintendent’s comments that led to resignation

By Scott Bauer And Todd Richmond, The Associated Press on February 21, 2024.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Green Bay school district on Wednesday released the recording of its first Black superintendent’s appearance on an Atlanta radio show in which he made blunt comments about race relations, criticized the community and derided one of the district’s principals.

Claude Tiller Jr. resigned on Saturday after a closed-door meeting with school board members.

On the recording, he is caught during a break from speaking on air during a WAOK-AM radio interview referring to a female principal as a “wicked witch” and using a disparaging slang word to describe her. Tiller was in Atlanta on a teacher recruiting trip.

During one of the breaks, the show’s host refers to Green Bay as “about as lily white as I have ever seen.”

Tiller responds, “The lily on top of the lily.”

The entire interview, including conversations Tiller had with the host during breaks, was livestreamed on Facebook. The host informed Tiller that his appearance would be streamed.

During the interview, Tiller was asked about his conversations with mostly white teachers.

“I’m a bald head man and I wear bow ties,” Tiller said. “So first all, they think that I’m a Muslim. They think I like to fix bean pies. And that’s furthest from the truth. So I have to go debunking some microaggressions before I even go into. They think majority of us we like fried chicken and watermelon. I prefer my chicken baked.” He added that, as “a bald head black man with a bow tie, they get my passion confused with anger.”

Tiller’s comments about bow ties and bean pies were a reference to the Nation of Islam, a Black nationalist movement with roots in Detroit whose male followers often wear distinctive red bowties. Followers also often consume and sell food made from navy beans, including pies, which are promoted as healthy.

In a statement he issued following his resignation, Tiller said his remarks during the interview were “specifically directed toward the broader systemic issues within public education that contribute to ongoing challenges.”

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