Cobb school board member says colleague ‘spews racist trash’

After an East Cobb representative to the Cobb Board of Education accused two of his fellow members of stoking racial antagonisms, one of those colleagues has fired back.Cobb school board member Charisse Davis

Charisse Davis, who represents the Walton and Wheeler clusters, issued a lengthy broadside at Post 5 member David Banks on her official board member Facebook page, saying that “while I usually ignore the ignorant remarks made by some of my board colleagues, today I cannot.”

She was referring to comments Banks made in an East Cobb News candidate profile last Thursday about racial and cultural issues in the Cobb County School District.

Among them were criticisms that Davis and Jaha Howard, both black Democratic first-term members, were making race an issue “where it has ‘never been before… I think they feel like they can get votes that way.’ ”

Banks, a retired technology consultant and business owner, has represented the Pope and Lassiter clusters for three terms. He is one of three Republican incumbents running for re-election in November and is facing first-time Democratic candidate Julia Hurtado.

The board’s vice chairman this year, Banks has said the district doesn’t have the racial and cultural issues that Davis and Howard have raised. They’ve called for the district to create the position of chief equity officer and wanted language in a now-failed anti-racism resolution to include the reference to ‘”systemic racism.”

Banks objected to that term, and said later in the East Cobb News candidate profile that he thought the Cobb district’s biggest challenge was avoiding “white flight” that he said has adversely affected the Atlanta, DeKalb and other metro school districts.

Cobb, with nearly 113,000 students, has become a majority-minority district, with roughly 60 percent of its student body being non-white.

In her Facebook message posted a few hours after the East Cobb News story, Davis said that “it seems as if my colleague, although on this Earth much longer than me, has forgotten a bit of the history of our dear Cobb County.”

She linked to a 2011 story in Patch noting that the Cobb school board didn’t vote to integrate until 1965, 11 years after the Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in schools. It wasn’t until 1970, Davis said, that “the schools were fully integrated. Y’all, that’s 1970! Ten years before I was born. We’re not talking about some ancient time ago.

“Any critical thinker can recognize that this level of racism would have a long-lasting impact.”

(Blackwell Elementary School in East Cobb was the first school in the Cobb district to enroll black students, during the 1966-67 school year.)

Davis also cited the 2011 article about a meeting in 1960 of group called the Cobb County White Citizens for Segregation. They gathered at Sedalia Park Elementary School in East Cobb—currently in Banks’ post and where Hurtado’s daughter is a student—and worked to boycott businesses that didn’t support keeping public schools all-white.

The group took out an ad in The Marietta Daily Journal, which Davis didn’t mention by name but referenced as “the kind of paper that would gladly run that type of ad (you know who!).” 

The newspaper has been occasionally critical of Davis and Howard in its editorial pages. In July, columnist Dick Yarbrough wrote about open turmoil on the school board during discussion of racism in Cobb schools, saying that “if there is anything noteworthy emanating from these squabbles, it is that arrogance is colorblind.”

He referred to Howard, who is a dentist, as Dr. Frick, and Davis as Madame Frack.

As for Banks’ comments in the East Cobb News profile that there are “black-on-black” issues that are more cultural and socioeconomic in Cobb today, Davis wrote that “my colleague goes on to spew racist trash that I won’t include in my post.”

She said that “the diversity of this county is one of its greatest strengths. This is no longer the county you may have fled to because you wanted to get away from black and brown people, and if that’s your thing…you may need to pack up your hate and keep it moving.”

Davis has signed an online petition to change the name of Wheeler High School, which opened in 1965 and is named after a Confederate Civil War general. Another petition has been created to keep the Wheeler name.

When asked by East Cobb News to describe her working relationship with Banks and if she had discussed racial issues with him, Davis said she would have no further comment. The school board will meet in person Thursday for the first time since February.

Many commenters to Davis’ post were in support of her remarks, including Howard, who wrote that “sometimes deep rooted bigotry throws rocks and doesn’t feel like hiding its hand, visible for all to see. Often times really nice people witness bigotry, but won’t be bothered to boldly reject it. Every time, it’s hurtful to its target audience.”

But a reader named John Hubbard said Banks “is 100% correct here. This is a new low. East Cobb schools are the stars of the county. Accusing people of moving to East Cobb to send their kids to a great public school only because they are ‘racist’ and scared of ‘brown people’ is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. We don’t need you renaming and ruining our schools.

“You should be ashamed of yourself as an elected official for posting something this stupid and incendiary.”

Davis replied, “sounds like you will also be one of the ones packing up!”

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