Letter to Sharif El-Mekki, Principal of Mastery Charter School — Shoemaker Campus

Dear Sharif El-Mekki,

I recently came across your blog post headlined, “Philly Principals, Stop Supporting Trump,” where you publicly called out my father (Dr. Charles Paslay) and me (Christopher Paslay), for being racists and supporting “anti-Blackness.”  Before I respond to your writing, please allow me to correct some misinformation in your original post.  You state that my father, Dr. Charles Paslay, is somehow associated with “Philly Teachers For Trump,” a Facebook page and blog that I founded in July of 2018 and currently host.  For the record, Dr. Paslay has nothing to do with either, and the “familiar name and picture” you refer to in your post are both me; although I am over 20 years younger than my father, I do look a lot like him, so I’ll forgive you for mistaking me for a 69-year-old man when I’m only 47.  Still, you really should go back to your original post and correct the record, assuming you are an honest writer and journalist who cares about getting the facts straight.     

Because we have ties to the same neighborhood (my father was born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia, and I grew up in Southwest Philly and Yeadon), and we teach and mentor the same kids (my father taught and coached at Bartram for 36 years, and I’ve been teaching and coaching in the Philadelphia School District for over 22 years), and because ultimately, we are good, caring people who’ve dedicated our lives to helping our students succeed, I won’t take it as an insult that you suggested my father and I are racists, and that we support “anti-Blackness,” whatever that term is supposed to mean; I understand you are an activist in addition to being a principal, and that you are only trying to protect the people you care about.

But truth be told — and I say this respectfully — you don’t know anything about either one of us, so how could you possibly call us racists?  You’ve never observed any of the classes we’ve taught, and don’t know our passion for teaching, or how we’ve worked our butts off to raise scores on the PSSA and Keystone exams.  You’ve never seen us coach, or witnessed our athletes proudly bring home Penn Relays medals or PIAA State Championships in track, or watched either of us counsel our students in times of crisis, sometimes acting as a surrogate parent when these kids had nowhere else to turn.  

And speaking of parents, you’ve probably never spoken to the mothers and fathers of our students and athletes, who’ve consistently thanked us for doing all we can to help their children go to college or learn a trade, or to become responsible young men and women ready to enter the world as critical thinkers.  I’d bet you’ve never spoken to administrators, or coaches, or PFT leaders who’ve thanked us for our dedication (Jerry Jordan wrote me a personal endorsement when I published my first book on education reform in 2011, titled, The Village Proposal: Education as a Shared Responsibility).  I bet you haven’t read the dozens of Inquirer commentaries I’ve written over the past 15 years, articles fighting for the rights of Philadelphia teachers and students, especially ones from neighborhoods like Southwest Philly.      

In summary, you know nothing about my father and me.  Yet you publicly call us racists, and claim we support “anti-Blackness.”  Incredibly, you state the following: 

This situation is not new to us. We have police, teachers, and other public anti-servants who earn a living on the backs of Black kids despite hating them and their roots.

Wow, that’s a pretty serious thing to say about two teachers and coaches who’ve dedicated their lives to helping their students, many of whom are African American.  With all due respect, Sharif, you don’t know us well enough to publicly insinuate that my father and I “earn a living on the backs of Black kids despite hating them and their roots.”  

But I think we both know why you’ve drawn these very serious and very slanderous conclusions: because I’ve dared to publicly support President Trump, and host a platform for others to do the same.  That’s my crime: supporting the President of the United States.  This is intolerable to people like you, who demand diversity of race, gender, and sexuality, but not diversity of thought.  This is exactly why I started Philly Teachers For Trump: to serve as a refuge for those who support our president.  This is America, not a one-party system like North Korea or the old Soviet Union.  People should be free to support the candidate of their choice, not be bullied into silence or called names.  If you go back to the Philly Teachers For Trump Facebook page and blog and read my posts, you’ll see examples of all the positives Trump has done for America (or at least you’ll see a perspective on things you might not be familiar with). Trump is not a racist or a bigot or a white supremacist, and neither are his supporters.  If you take the time to look past the daily misrepresentation and mischaracterization of the man for five minutes, you’ll see he cares about ALL people.  

Trump believes in merit-based immigration over a random lottery, and feels that refuges seeking asylum should come through legal ports of entry, therefore he’s labeled a “xenophobe” who hates all Latinos; Trump supports Israel’s right to exist, scrutinizes countries with high populations of Islamic extremists, and sanctions countries like Iran who openly support terrorism, therefore he’s an Islamophobe who hates all Muslims; Trump cut taxes which stimulated the economy, energized the stock market and created jobs for all Americans, yet somehow he’s a greedy one-percenter who cares only about the rich; Trump reformed the criminal justice system via his “First Step Act,” giving many incarcerated minorities a second chance at life, yet he’s a racist white supremacist who doesn’t care about black lives; Trump deregulated the energy sector and is fighting to implement clean fossil fuels — bringing back the coal industry and saving small American towns — yet he’s an evil climate destroyer; Trump believes in restricting late term abortions, so that when a baby is born alive doctors should be required to save its life rather than end it, therefore he doesn’t respect women’s bodies or their right to choose; Trump was the first Republican president to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month (and is currently fighting to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of countries in Africa and the Middle East), yet he’s a homophobe who hates gays; Trump loves America and all it stands for, putting the interests of its people first, yet he’s a “Russian agent” who’s in bed with Putin.  

I’m not going to debate Trump’s policies, or try to correct all the misinformation about him, but at least know this: he’s done more for African Americans in two years than Obama did in eight.  Just ask Candice Owens, or watch the video The Young Black Conservatives of Trump’s America.  Or better yet, ask BET’s founder Robert Johnson about Trump (he supports him).  Or Isaac Newton Farris Jr. and Alveda King, Dr. King’s nephew and niece, about Trump (they both support him).  Or Rev. Bill Owens, president of the coalition of African-American pastors (they all support Trump).  Or Dr. Ben Carson, or Kanye West, or Tim Scott, or Herman Cain.  Or Alan Keyes, Larry Elder, Stacey Dash, or Thomas Sowell.  Or Clarence Thomas, Col. Allen West, David Webb, or Ward Connerly.  Or Roy Innis, Niger Innis, Shelby Steele, or Sheriff David Clarke.  Are all these proud Trump-supporting African Americans “anti-Black”?  If Trump is such a toxic, bigoted, white supremacist, why do all these successful, exemplary, and God-loving Blacks support the man? Perhaps there’s another side to Trump all his critics refuse to see?

Again, I’m not here to sell you on Trump.  However, I do believe that in America, people should be free to support the president without fear of reprisal or threats of having their reputations destroyed.  If you don’t agree with Trump or his policies, fine.  But this movement to stereotype all Trump supporters as racist and bully us into silence is wrong, and educators of your experience and stature should understand this, Sharif. Over 108,000 people voted for Trump in Philadelphia in 2016, and they can’t all be bigots.  Neither can the parents and students in Philadelphia who back the president. Shouldn’t their voices be heard? Trump’s style is brash, and some of the things he says are insensitive, but he’s hardly the monster everyone makes him out to be.  Most Trump supporters are good, caring people.  And we want the same things you do: freedom, equality, and a decent quality of life for all people of all backgrounds.  If you really want to make a difference and grow as a person, try this exercise: shake hands with a Trump supporter and actually get to know him or her.  You might be surprised by what happens.  

God bless you, Sharif. May you find peace in the world and may your life go well.

Respectfully,

Christopher Paslay

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