Superintendent candidate blasts ‘Stranger’ for tokenism, getting it wrong
Erin Jones, a candidate for Washington’s top education position, is calling out a Seattle newspaper for misrepresenting her LGBTQ positions, tokenism, and more.
“They got it wrong,” said Jones, a candidate for Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, about a recent coverage in Seattle’s “The Stranger.”
“But I will also acknowledge that I got it wrong,” she said. “I used language that didn’t reflect what I actually believe and have demonstrated in my life. But they painted a picture that was really unfair about who I am.”
Jones told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz that The Stranger’s approach made assumptions based on her religion, used tokenism because she is a black woman, and did not fairly represent her stance on LGBTQ issues. Stranger Reporter Sydney Brownstone has responded to Jones’ statements:
I made no assumptions about Jones’ religion. She was quoted fairly and accurately; her words and actions speak for themselves. So does the article I wrote.
The Stranger and Miss Jones
The core issue is Jones’ stance on LGBTQ issues, especially as state education officials consider policies to address those topics starting at a young age. The Stranger reports that Washington schools are starting to consider how to address LGBTQ topics, and the next superintendent will be crucial in how they are specifically addressed.
But The Stranger argues that Jones is on the wrong side of that issue. While the paper initially endorsed Jones for the position, it rescinded its endorsement citing that Jones’ stances on LGBTQ issues were harmful — that she believes being gay is a choice and that young students should not be exposed to LGBTQ issues. But Jones argues that is not the truth, or her position.
Jones told Rantz that she did not speak accurately enough on the issues and did not represent herself well. She also argues that The Stranger misrepresented her further.
“I do not believe people choose to be gay,” Jones said.”I have two kids that are kind of my surrogate kids … and if they could have chosen something different, they would have. Because this is a painful journey. One of the reasons they are part of our community is because they had been rejected by their families when they came out.”
Jones said that her initial perspectives on addressing LGBTQ issues at an elementary school level were not fully formed. That’s because she taught at a middle and high school level.
“After talking with several parents of trans kids, and LGBTQ children, and a lesbian mother who is married to a woman … we had lots of conversations about why starting early with these conversations is critical,” Jones said.
Jones said that current Washington policies on addressing LGBTQ issues from a kindergarten level on up are appropriate, but she would like to form an advisory group as superintendent to assess if they go far enough.
”The gender expression issue for the younger kids, the kindergartners, is where the bullying often starts,” she said. “… Those things absolutely need to be talked about – talking about sexual orientation in 4th grade is absolutely appropriate.”
Why the misunderstanding?
Jones told Rantz that it wasn’t just her lack of clarity that caused the controversy with The Stranger. She alleges that the newspaper made certain assumptions based on her religion.
There were places where The Stranger took me out of context. And it was very clear that when I was doing the interview that there were assumptions being made of me as Christian woman. And it was clear in the way the questions were asked and in the tone of voice. So there were things pulled out of context, and assumptions made about being a Christian. And part of that I understand. I understand that the Christian community has not always embraced the LGBTQ community. So I understand how that happens. But to make assumption that I am a certain way because I am a Christian or associated with a church is really damaging, hurtful and it’s just not true.
Erin Jones, The Stranger, and tokenism
Jones also pointed out another issue with The Stranger’s coverage of her candidacy — tokenism.
The Stranger admits that part of its initial support was based on the fact that Jones could be the first black woman to hold a statewide office in Washington.
Members of the (Stranger Election Control Board) were impressed by Jones’s powerful comments about being the mother of black children and her commitment to fighting for equity. We were also excited about the groundbreaking potential of her candidacy, since Jones, if elected, would be the first African-American woman to hold statewide office.
But for Jones, she should be superintendent because of her qualifications — not because she is black.
Erin Jones told Rantz:
Oh yes, It’s definitely tokenism. I am the first black woman (who would be superintendent), and I don’t’ believe I deserve to be in the position because I am the first black woman. I have demonstrated over 25 years – I was the most innovative foreign language teacher, I was a champion of change at the White House, I’m a PTA educator of the year. I have demonstrated over 25 years that I am excellent at what I do — that I have a commitment to my students, especially those in the margins. I have closed gaps. I worked at the executive level at OSPI. I am the best candidate in this race, not because I am a black woman, but because I am qualified.